History Highlights: Arts, Music & Film

North Omaha has been and continues to be home to many creatives. It has produced several music notables, including Preston Love, Sr., Lloyd Hunter, Wynonie Harris, Anna Mae Winburn, Luigi Waites, Buddy Miles, Lester Abrams, Arno Lucas,Calvin Keys and Ester Dean.

Love played with Count Basie and penned an acclaimed autobiography. Accomplished pianist, organist, composer and recitalist Ruth Norman wrote chamber, choral, piano and organ works, plus a symphony. She made her life and career in Washington D.C. and lectured widely there and nationally on early black classical musicians. Doretha Wade brought the Salem Baptist Church gospel choir to national prominence and Jay Terrell continued the legacy.

Derrek Higgins, George Walker, Dani Cleveland, Camille Metoyer Moten, Kathy Tyree, Carole and Nola Jeanpierre, Carol Rogers, Eric and Doriette Jordan, Millicent Crawford are among today’s talents adding to this rich musical heritage.

Nebraska has a rich screen heritage and some of its earliest contributions to the film industry began with brothers George and Noble Johnson. In 1916 Omaha, they established the Lincoln Motion Picture Company – the first African-American owned and operated movie production outfit. In more recent years, Monty Ross was a key producing partner of Spike Lee. Omowale Akintunde wrote-directed a dramatic feature film, Wigger, shot entirely in North Omaha. He also made an Emmy Award-winning documentary, An Inaugural Ride to Freedom, about Omahans trekking to the first Obama inauguration. Omaha native, Tim Christian founder of Night Fox Entertainment, finances and launches national films.

Character actor John Beasley is a familiar face in film (Rudy, The Apostle) and television (Everwood, The Soul Man). Gabrielle Union is a black feature film star (Daddy’s Little Girls) and the lead of her own BET dramatic series, Being Mary Jane. Yolonda Ross is an acclaimed film (Antwone Fisher) and TV actress (Whitney). Randy Goodwin is a veteran TV actor (Girlfriends).