You can see them moving primarily behind the scenes. They have an unrelenting commitment to their beloved North Omaha and their neighborhoods. Many are long-time residents who remember a different era in North Omaha. Some of them have lived long enough to have experienced all of the different phases in the ever expanding area defined as North Omaha.
They are neighborhood association leaders, community activists, youth organizers, ministry leaders, volunteers, informal neighborhood center hosts and others who live, work and serve in their community. You may not see them on the news or in the newspaper, but they are there, doing everything they can every day to improve their own lives and the lives of those around them.
People like Ella Willis of Neighborhood Action and Fact. Going daily about the business of advocating for her neighbors and working tirelessly to improve the community. Oscar Watson, Jr. patrolling and watching over the Kountze Park area. Vickey Parks and her late husband Charles Parks, who could always be found leading a voter registration drive, volunteering for a community event, or hosting a neighborhood outreach. Rondae Hill. Kris Carter. Juanita Johnson. Bobbie Davis. Kathy Holtz. Rosalind Moore. Sharon Olson. Pastor James Temple and his wife Eloise. Trudy Swanson. All people who love and stand up for their neighborhoods.
Apostle Vanessa Ward, and her late husband, both pioneers in North Omaha for hosting positive block parties, music in the park, activities for youth and mobilizing the neighborhood to make it safe for all residents. Her book, “Somebody Do Something”, is a personal story of her family’s commitment to changing the block they lived on and call for others to do the same.
Mildred Lee and others did the same type of work in their neighborhoods through Weed and Seed efforts years ago. Many of these neighborhood associations were formed under the leadership of the nationally recognized group, North Omaha Community Development, which operated in the ‘70’s and 80’s. The organization, led by Carl Christian, Carl Tyler, George Garnett, and others was instrumental in the creation of the Charles Drew Health Center, the Blue ion, Metropolitan Community College and other key institutions. Christian returned to neighborhood organizing in 2010, working with residents, the Empowerment Network, OEDC and Councilman Ben Gray to form the North Omaha Neighborhood Alliance. NONA, now under the leadership of Primus Jones and board, has been busy at work the past four years gathering North Omaha Neighborhood Association leaders, hosting monthly planning meetings, organizing canvassing and door-to-door campaigns, while advocating for investments and positive change in North Omaha.
NONA Program Director, Kyle Keith, is one of a number of emerging leaders playing an active role in the rebirth and strengthening of North Omaha. Aja Anderson, Symone Sanders, Dennis Anderson, Sidney Franklin, JoAnna LeFlore, Moniki Cannon and others have played leadership roles with the African-American Young Professionals and Urban League Young Professionals groups, and have been active in successful outreach efforts and events.
Community activists can be found helping those in need in many different arenas. Robert Wagner, of Project KNOSE, is consistently helping families during their time of greatest need and is often painting homes and doing whatever he can to assist others. Clarice Jackson, of the Voice Advocacy Center, consistently pushes for improvements in education and has brought a greater sense of awareness to students impacted by dyslexia. Willie Hamilton of Black Men United has led efforts to bring attention to the need for mentors to support African-American boys and young men while leading by example at Mt. View Elementary. Preston Love, Jr. consistently pushing the envelope to increase voter participation and elevating the urgency of securing opportunities for North Omaha contractors and other small and emerging businesses.
Neighborhood Action and Fact Chris Wiley, Alonzo Mitchell, Terrence Mackey, Ricky Smith, Tyrone Marshall, Tunette Powell, Leo Louis, Angel Martin and many others who consistently work to make a difference. They are the teachers and principals who start early and stay late to make sure children reach their full potential. They are the coaches who go to the practice field and stay there until after dark even after putting in a full day at work. They are the organizers who work all night to make sure everything at the event is executed with excellence and stay there after everyone has left to clean up and put things back together. They are the counselors who give attention to all students, but spend extra time with those that others have counted out. They are the neighbors who allow kids to gather and study or play games at their house, just to keep them all safe.