Omiah Gregory and the Importance of Remembrance

by Sondra Samuels, NAZ President and CEO

As we celebrate Black History Month it is apropos to celebrate the 1,000 NAZ families and 2,100 scholars–who are overwhelmingly African American–working hard to transform their lives. In this admirable group, there is one parent we must single out and celebrate– NAZ Father of nine and Northside community member, Omiah Gregory, 32. Omiah died on MLK Jr. day, just six days before Kobe Bryant, (another great father and inspiration to us all) and only three weeks after his two-year-old daughter, YaMoni, passed.

We celebrate Omiah because although his financial resources in life were scarce his spirit and dreams were abundant. He was living proof to all of us that when a loving, committed, and aspiring parent gets the right support he/she can achieve great things for themselves, their community, and their children–putting them on a path to college and career, as well as, a lifetime of happiness.

For the last five years, our NAZ collaborative has had the honor of wrapping around Omiah’s entire family with supports that were positioning them to lift themselves out of poverty.  First, his family worked with a NAZ Family Achievement coach who partnered with them to set and achieve life goals; his fiancé, Raven, attended one of our workforce partner programs; they received a NAZ early learning scholarship administered through our partner, Think Small; his 1st grader is attending Ascension, one of our strongest Anchor schools; his family secured a NAZ subsidy and housing in the beautiful Northside Ecovillage which was developed and is run by PPL, one of our housing partners; and Omiah was a proud graduate of the NAZ Father’s Foundations our empowerment program, and was making plans with NAZ African American male coaches to reconvene the group and expand the support to more Black men across the Northside. In fact, in Omiah’s speech (below) given at our One Future Luncheon, he said that Father’s Foundation gave him the tools, space and support he needed to empower himself, to make the changes he had always strived for, and to brighten the future of his scholars.

The loss of Omiah is heartbreaking. His homegoing (funeral) service was filled with family, friends, and community members whose lives he touched. His commitment to his family was a common theme in the testimonies about his life. Here at NAZ, we know that this is a tragedy and a loss, but we will remember Omiah as a dedicated father who, in his short time on earth, gave all of himself to his children. He didn’t hold back love or hope that his babies could be and do anything. As we celebrate Black History Month at NAZ we will be lifting up the inspiring stories of civil rights leaders, Black excellence, and the strides that we, as a community have made towards equity and love. But, we will also be holding a place for remembrance of those who make history in their homes every day by caring for loved ones and diligently working to better themselves and their community. I can think of no better way to celebrate Black History Month than to honor Omiah by urgently continuing our work of partnering with families like him. His children will need the support of our community more than ever now.

Watch Omiah’s inspiring speech from our One Future Luncheon below.

Omiah Gregory, 1FL19