Miss Cassette will not be guiding a tour through a dream portal nor a wardrobe today, although my beloved Omaha has walked this historic path many times before any of us were born. I ask that we join together, here amidst the confusion and pain of 2020. Let us speak plainly and listen wholly. I believe today is a great day to open our hearts. There is a bright light around us all.
Loyalty to Conscience
Recent events across our nation have laid bare long engrained, systemic racism and the senseless acts of violence perpetrated against Blacks and People of Color. I have felt sickened, outraged and deeply pained by the murders of both George Floyd and young Omaha protester, James Scurlock in this last week and a half. I lift my voice and stand with and in support of my Black Sisters and Brothers, People of Color, LGBTQ+ community and all oppressed people. While caring deeply about justice and humanity, I recognize I, simultaneously, hold a responsibility in these murders and hate-filled acts. White Omahans, we must stand up together and come clean.
Civil Rights picketers at the Fontenelle Hotel. Creator: Savage, John (1903-1989). Publisher: The Durham Museum. Date: 1963-07.
The James Scurlock memorial area between 12th and 13th on Harney Street near where he was fatally shot. My heart is with his family and friends. RIP James Scurlock.
If you are struggling as a White person to understand the solidarity in this social unrest around you, please ask yourself, what is at the root of these recent protests? What is being asked of American society as a whole? I encourage you to open your heart and listen. Additionally we need to educate ourselves and discern between protesting and rioting, for there is a large difference. In Omaha’s limited recent cases of rioting, I ask you to put aside your preconceived beliefs and consider why a person or persecuted group might express a righteous anger after waiting so long for equality and justice.
Culprit Café and Bakery at 3201 Farnam Street (corner of 16th and Farnam). North-facing mural of James Scurlock, featuring his nickname “Juju.” Signs read: “Say His Name James Scurlock” and “Black Lives Matter.” I’ve written about Culprit Café before in my articles. A wonderful example of turning a brick through the window, into a positive opportunity. A clearly communicated loving tribute to James Scurlock and George Floyd. Thanks to local artist group led by Edgar Vazquez, volunteers and Culprit owner, Luke Mabie who was encouraging of the idea.
Stark east-facing mural of the Culprit Café and sidewalk chalk designs. The painting reads: “I’ll tell you what freedom is to me: No Fear!”
New work in progress. I spy the face of Martin Luther King in the lower left hand corner.
The new coffee shop-clothing boutique, Dripped + Draped at 6105 Maple Street, with positive messages. “POC United” and “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” If you want to feel even better, step inside! Mr. Cassette and I went in for a couple a joes this weekend.
Popular Krug Park bar at 6205 Maple offering “Truth is Powerful” and “Say His Name James Scurlock.”
There are those among us concerned with upholding tranquility and the status quo. They feel threatened. They have found a way to politicize the Black Lives Matter movement and not see it as a simple statement of upholding human value. They will find a way to point to the broken windows and graffiti from last weekend’s Omaha protests as some kind of misguided evidence, rather than think about and empathize with people who have been asking for equality for generations. For those concerned with panes of glass over the life of a young man, let me shine the flashlight of perspective. May I remind you that if there’s one things we’ve established time and time again at My Omaha Obsession, it is that the City of Omaha, the Omaha Planning Department, local developers and the Powers That Be continue to wield destruction and tear down our historic buildings. Let me assure you, these held-in-secret-meetings and the ever-revving wrecking ball have done more damage to Omaha structures than our largely peaceful protesters ever could.
Historic Haney Shoes at 6060 Maple shows their support to Black Lives Matter.
An African-American man is holding a sign that reads: “We dare to disagree with David Lawrence’s opinions” outside of the Omaha World Herald building. He’s holding a movie camera. Other protesters are in the photo. Creator: Savage, John (1903-1989). Publisher: The Durham Museum. Date: 1963.
Bryan Hill Entertainment Inc. at 6070 Maple Street.
Table Grace Café and Table Grace Ministries at 1611 1/2 Farnam Street. “The Broom Man” mural with Black Lives Matter message.
My Self Questioning
At first glance, My Omaha Obsession’s entry-level website is one of winding back alley investigations and the hunt for hidden mansions. But many gathered here have long sensed the deeper soul path we are journeying and many have untangled my not so sneaky message of the spiritual heart connection. I believe we are here to love and uplift one another. To listen to our stories. No matter what our differences–to bare witness to the past and to one another’s humanity. That is all well and good but I must shine light on my self-questioning of the last four years of writing. My explorations and research on the detective path are an exercise. The pursuit itself as happiness. I would like to think that I offer up a foggy dream of reality, once the story line is all hammered into place. But it is not the full picture and you and I know that.
Scout Dry Good and Trade in Dundee at 5018 Underwood Avenue displays their Black Lives Matter poster.
The old Matthews Bookstore tiled entry on Harney Street with a heart symbol, an “Ally” message, complete with “Don’t Shoot” and “I can’t breathe” signs pasted about.
State Farm Insurance, Matt Dougherty agent, at 6067 Maple Street, speaks up.
In my investigations I have found, due to the discriminating practice of redlining in Omaha and the socioeconomic reality of most minorities in the teens and 1920s, there is little to no history of Black people or People of Color when researching the glorious homes of Midtown. I’ve read the eyeopening The Education of a WASP by Lois Stalvey and fascinating Black Print with a White Carnation: Mildred Brown and the Omaha Star Newspaper by Amy Helene Forss. While redlining was banned fifty years ago, Omaha neighborhoods are still largely segregated. You know this. This was by design. This historic practice directly hurts minorities and I argue, our whole community. Redlining practices are further discussed in my book but if you would be open to it, or wanting more articles of this nature, I would like to share what I can find. In further disclosure I also respect long time North Omaha History writer and historian, Adam Fletcher Sasse, who carved out his blogging niche way before I ever stepped foot into Omaha history writing. https://northomahahistory.com/ Maybe I have put too much on this self-imposed, respectful boundary, not wanting to encroach on his creative exploration into North Omaha’s history. Additionally, if I am honest, I have a personal sensitivity and awareness of being yet another White person attempting to write the history of People of Color. We have been known to get it wrong, to say the least. I support Black people telling their own stories. In current times some groups view White folks using photographs and images depicting People of Color, for say, a blog, as inappropriate or exploitive. These are issues I am sensitive to and take seriously. The reality is, My Omaha Obsession, consequently, offers little to no ethnic or racial diversity if ever, when covering the large, historic homes of Midtown and older Omaha. Sadly there is little to no diversity found in public records of suburban Omaha. Some say Whites should only write about Whites. I have been happy to stay in that lane, however I question myself. Did I get it wrong?
Waiting Room Lounge at 6212 Maple promotes Black Lives Matter from its marquee.
A group, mostly children gather in a park to protest the housing authority’s rent increase. Signs read: “Tenants for low housing,” “Should they raise rent even 1 cent?” and “Be fair with us Omaha.” Creator: Savage, John (1903-1989). Publisher: The Durham Museum. Date: 1967.
The B Side of Benson Theatre at 6058 Maple, stands in support of BLM.
I want to do better and I want to open up this discussion. I would love to know if there are other historians covering North Omaha architecture or Black researchers focused on North O, as I would be glad to include their links here. Are their Black Omaha authors of the past who wrote about Omaha history that I missed? I recognize there is Much Bigger Work to be done right now, certainly more important work than writing about architecture. These are future endeavors or collaboration I am suggesting. Also I am open to your feedback about my potential future research into parts of Omaha I have stayed away from out of respect.
Cross Cuts Barber Shop at 1622 Harney Street. Black-owned business, displaying posters of support.
A line of Omahans picketing outside the Omaha World Herald building at 14th and Dodge Streets. Many are holding signs, including “Consider that we TOO are a part of your reading public” and “We dare to disagree with David Lawrence’s opinions!” Creator: Savage, John (1903-1989). Publisher: The Durham Museum. Date: 1963.
Omaha, we have a responsibility to face our racism, educate ourselves to societal racism and to help demand change. With love in our hearts, we must unify and fight for justice for all.
Thank you for listening, friends and keep up the good soul work.
A beautiful, large, tribute mural to James Scurlock at 24th and Camden Avenue, where a prayer vigil was held. RIP James Scurlock.
Lovely, creative rosary of balloons from James Scurlock’s memorial gathering. Photograph by Chad Elliott.
I welcome your feedback and comments. Also if you know the names of the mural artists, please let me know in comments.
You can keep up with my latest investigations by joining my email group. Click on “Contact” then look for “Sign me up for the Newsletter!” Enter your email address. You will get sent email updates every time I have written a new article. Also feel free to join My Omaha Obsession on Facebook. Thank you, Omaha friends. Miss Cassette
The Backline Comedy Theatre at 1618 Harney Street, with show of support.
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