Banister’s Leadership Academy is located in
Omaha, Nebraska, the largest city in the State of Nebraska, with a population
of 421,570. Omaha touts itself as one of the best cities for Fortune 500
Companies and their investment and growth in Omaha has totaled nearly $3
billion in projects ranging from the arts, entertainment and sport complexes,
new office and education buildings, residential units and public green space
since the late 1980’s. In 2013 alone,
the Greater Omaha Economic Development Partnership identified 416 new or
expanding company projects totaling over $930 million and adding approximately
4,500 new jobs to the Omaha area.
Despite its high ranking on numerous
livability charts, the greater metropolitan area population of 885,624 (U.S.
Census Bureau, 2012 estimates) faced significant increases in homicides,
aggravated assaults and robberies over the last three years. The level of
economic revitalization and redevelopment prevalent in downtown and midtown
Omaha has not occurred in North Omaha.
Consequently, the youth and families that live there live in places that exhibit signs of neighborhood disrepair and vulnerability. Northeast Omaha(shown in red), where a majority of Banister’s youth and families reside are limited by socioeconomic conditions that are among the worst in the country.
Because of these conditions, in lieu of stable
income, hope for the future, and a solid family foundation, youth turn to gangs
or other criminal activity to provide structure, a sense of belonging, power,
excitement, and income. As a result, street violence is the undercurrent of everyday life in North Omaha.
Omaha, Nebraska became the
perfect place for the spread of poverty, high crime, low education achievement,
gang activity and all the associated risk factors of homicides, aggravated
assaults, and shots fired that have persisted over the past decade where no
family has been immune! BLA’s Co-Founder President and CEO, Akile Banister and
his family have felt the sting of gang violence!
estimates that for every 1,000 Nebraskans, there are four members of the 18
most ruthless and notoriously known gangs living within our cities (NGIC, 2011).
to young African-American men living in North Omaha, factors with the biggest
impact on their success are violence, availability of positive alternatives,
and job opportunities (Empowerment Networks Fourth Annual Striving for Success:
Black Male Summit in September 2013).
- This lack of legitimate opportunity and the presence of alternative criminal
opportunities are more likely to explain the character and scope of these
behaviors” (Spergel, 1995).