The Young, Black and Influential Awards is an idea that stemmed from frustration.
Ashlei Spivey, the creator of the awards ceremony, came up with the idea to honor those who she says often gets overlooked.
“I was really upset with the landscape around leadership. Especially for black people, for how black people are affirmed, what success and leadership looks like."
Dominique Morgan is last year’s YBI recipient and the host for this year’s ceremony. Morgan and Spivey say anyone can be a leader in the community, despite their appearance.
“The most impactful people don't look the shiniest on paper or in pictures. Or their social media isn't the sharpest and cleanest."
“You don't have to have the job, the right degree, the right look to be a leader. You as you are, all of your authentic self is enough,” stresses Spivey.
Although Young, Black and Influential awards honors the work already being done around the metro, Morgan says there is also a focus on results still to come.
“We try our best to develop folks but I think also you should say you're doing awesome work while you're on the path to your best self and that's something the YBI does wonderfully."
The winners ranged from teenagers to long-time community activists who are
creating positive change both North Omaha and the entire community. Tommie Young-Dennis is among those being honored. He says he’s shocked others recognize his efforts.
“It's those leaders who are moving in silence, making moves behind the background. Just because you're a leader doesn't necessarily mean you have to be it out in front."
Young-Dennis is active in the fight to stop the spread of HIV. He says the award shows he and the other eight winners are doing something right.
“It not only gives us a platform to convey our messaging but it also gives us a chance to communicate with an audience that may or may not know what we're doing in the community."