Published: May 26, 2020
History was made in North Omaha! All eyes now on the general election.
Four years ago, in 2016, North Omaha voted at an abysmal 6% during the primary. With effective collaboration and purposeful coordination, the community responded in 2020 and generated a 22% turnout.
The nearly four times increase is substantial and deserves to be celebrated. North Omaha residents, you made it happen!
Many individuals and organizations should be recognized for their efforts to inform and mobilize the community. Preston Love, Jr and North Omaha Votes Matter. Precious McKesson with NONA. Sergio Sosa with the Heartland Workers Center. Kimara Snipe with Nebraska Civic Engagement Table. The League of Women Voters, Pastors and Faith Leaders, and others helped to produce the increased turnout.
All of the candidates that ran for office should also be celebrated. Omaha had one of the most diverse slates of candidates in the history of the city. There were African-Americans and other people of color on the ballot in just about every major race.
The newly formed Black/North Omaha Media Collaborative also played a key role. Radio stations 101.3, 95.7 and 100.3 all featured candidates and discussed key issues on their stations. The Omaha Star and NoiseOmaha all provided critical information to residents.
Another major piece of the success was the approval to make vote by mail an option for all residents. The election commission led very effectively by Brian Kruse and Chris Carithers, sent vote by mail post cards to all Douglas County residents. Kruse and Carithers have proven to be very community minded and have made themselves very accessible in all parts of the city.
As a result, Douglas County also set records for voter turnout in a primary election. 85% of the votes cast in the 2020 primary election were by mail.
If the method produces higher voter participation, it should definitely be considered and added as a practical and measurable solution. The same process should be implemented going forward for every election.
In addition to this group of the change makers, the strong slate of candidates and the vote by mail model, special recognition should also go to Sal Issaka and the Omaha Housing Authority.
With the issues presented by the Coronavirus, the election commission was forced to relocate a number of polling centers and move them away from their traditional locations in the OHA Towers. The change was made to protect the health of seniors and other residents in the towers.
The community response led by Preston Love and Sal Issaka mobilized quickly to innovate and create a workable solution. This collective group worked together in a joint effort with Kimara Snipes in South Omaha and the election commission to generate positive results. As reported by Preston Love, Jr, using the vote by mail option, all of the towers experienced an increase in votes. Overall, the votes from tower residents increased by two and a half times previous years. Evans Tower had a dramatic 80% increase from 2016 to 2020.
The Omaha Housing Authority Vote By Mail (VBM) mobilization effort was a collaboration of multiple organizations, including Black Votes Matter Institute of Community Engagement, Nebraska Civic Engagement Table, the South Omaha Neighborhood Alliance, League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha and NONA-North Omaha Neighborhood Alliance.
The North Omaha community should be proud of its turnout for the primary. Yet, there’s more work ahead. The turnout county wide was 37%, so there’s still a gap that must be closed.
Come November, North Omaha must respond in a strong way to assure their voice is heard. The community must also be vigilant regarding misinformation and voter suppression efforts.
During the 2008 and 2012 elections with Barack Obama on the ballot, North Omaha generated very high voter turnout. With the importance of the upcoming election, it will be urgent and critical for North Omaha to reach the same level of participation.
There’s a strong likelihood that the Coronavirus will still play a major role. The state and county should be prepared to once again offer vote by mail as a reliable and safe option.
Congratulations North Omaha! Now, let’s set a new record during the general election in November. Get involved. Register to vote. Vote by mail. Become a volunteer for a campaign. Make contributions to your candidate.
History is calling. Together, we can set new records for voter participation in the general election.
Ted Lampkin: Rising to Meet the Challenge
Charles Drew Health Center
Growing up down the street from Charles Drew Health Center, Inc., it was no question for Ted Lampkin to give back to the community that helped raise him.
“I’m passionate about public health because I am a product of public health services. Coming up, my family and I used the services at Charles Drew.”
As the Associate Director of Behavioral Health Services, Ted has been on the front-line teaching and training team members in new approaches to behavioral health. It’s no surprise that when COVID-19 struck, Ted was front and center.
“My role was to help transition the Behavioral Health department from doing face-to-face therapy to telehealth therapy.”
While COVID-19 began to escalate, increasing evidence highlighted racial and ethnic minority groups are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
“We made it easy for the patients, providing traditional face-to-face, telehealth, and when needed telephonic sessions. A lot of patients had anxiety about COVID-19 and being in the middle of a pandemic, in addition to their other stressers.”
“The benefit of telehealth is we can continue to provide quality service during a pandemic. You take out the barriers to care with telehealth.”
Brenda Avant: Providing Quality Healthcare in the Midst of COVID-19
Charles Drew Health Center
As a North Omaha native, Family Nurse Practitioner, Brenda Avant, understands educating her patients about their healthcare choices is a foundational principle to accessing safe and quality healthcare.
When the pandemic shut down Omaha metro schools, Brenda and the team members at Charles Drew Health Center, Inc. School-based Health Centers had to switch gears. While still providing in-person care, the SBHC Medical providers began utilizing telehealth to remain in contact with their patients.
“The telehealth program at Charles Drew really grew at that time. As Medical providers, we were able to continue serving our student patients through telehealth. The parents really enjoyed it because they felt even through a pandemic their child’s provider is still in tune with their needs.”
As the pandemic surged, the healthcare inequalities within the American health system began to come to the foreground. “It made me proud to see that Charles Drew was a front runner in COVID-19. The community was looking to us to help guide them through.”
“Charles Drew made it very easy for the population we serve to continue receiving care. We may be small, but we are mighty.”
Larry Duncan: Resiliency in the Face of a Crisis
Charles Drew Health Center
Hailing from the south side of Chicago, Larry Duncan, Director of Behavioral Health Services at Charles Drew Health Center, Inc. has always had a passion for helping others. “My passion, at first, started off with a drug and alcohol emphasis based on my own experiences and knowledge. As I grew and received more education, mental health became the next umbrella. It rests with my understanding that there are unique issues that affect black and brown people, and people who are marginalized.”
Within the first year serving at Charles Drew, Larry faced his biggest challenge yet, leading a team while in the mists of coronavirus. “The number one thing we did quickly was become active.” As COVID-19 began to highlight the care gaps within marginalized communities, the Behavioral Health team at Charles Drew looked to bridge those gaps within the community.
“For our population it was a dual threat. On one side of the coin, the crisis becomes an additional stress to a population of people who already live with stress. On the flip side of the coin, the lack of community and social interaction increased depression, anxiety, and a sense of hopelessness.”
The message was simple, but practical: Practice the Five Cs–Connection, Commitment, Communion, Contain, and Continue.
Looking back, one of the greatest strengths of Charles Drew, in Larry’s eyes, was the ability to remain active. While most were waiting, frozen in their activity, Charles Drew advanced forward.
“We got better and better at it. We were doing testing on the front line when testing was just starting. As masks began to be required, we were handing them out to the community members in need. Whatever needed to be done in the face of this virus, we did it.”