More than 500 African American leaders gathered at a downtown hotel Tuesday to celebrate overcoming adversity at their annual leadership conference.
"For a long time, our community didn't have any hope,” said Ben Gray, Omaha City Council president. “One of the things that they can take away from that, one of the things they can take away from today, is that hope is on the horizon."
Keynote speaker Soledad O'Brien, known for CNN’s "Black in America," drew applause as she talked about how proactive Omaha’s black community is.
“That’s what you’ve done really well,” O’Brien said. “You don’t need my advice on that at all. If I were you, I’d elevate your stories for people to be inspired.”
A message throughout was how Americans, regardless of race or background, have more similarities than differences.
"Middle class people need to understand whether they're black, white, Native American or whatever, we have more in common with each other than we do with wealthy people,” Gray said. “We have to build on those things that we have in common."
Having hundreds of successful African Americans gather every year inspires others in tough situations to overcome obstacles, said Damita Byrd, a diversity manager at ConAgra.
"It expands and broadens the relationships that we have across the board,” Byrd said. “The collaboration and the connection that this conference brings to the professionals here today is very important."
While Byrd says many companies in the area have a diverse workforce, she says black Americans can have a tougher time entering the corporate world.