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North Omaha was historically discriminated against through redlining; local residents seek inclusion

OMAHA, Nebraska — Along with its culture and its heritage, North Omaha is characterized by a profound affection for the local community, and more especially for its inhabitants.

“It’s an African American phenomenon. It’s a wonderful culture that includes our churches, our religions, our food, our dress, our hair, our arts, and all of those things, and our intellect and professionalism,” said Preston Love, Jr., a North Omaha resident and activist.

But locals claim that a lot of the positive aspects are misrepresented by people who aren’t from there, leading them to focus on the negative aspects.

“We’ve had years, I’m talking about decades, of neglect that took us from the glory days to the days of economic devastation and all the residuals of poverty. The residuals are not good and include crime and a lot of things which is a false image of this community,” said Love.

According to Jannette Gabriel, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and an investigator in the Omaha Spatial Justice Project, North Omaha was historically discriminated against through the practice of redlining.

“In Omaha, there was significant racial discrimination impacting communities not considered nonwhite. Those communities largely resided in North and South Omaha,” said Gabriel.

She goes on to say that racially restricted housing covenants are an even greater problem than redlining.

“Which said only certain types of people could live in those homes and what this did is placed a geographic barrier over where people could move,” said Gabriel.

However, the location of your house is not the only factor to consider.

“Where your home is, is connected to many other issues that impact your quality of life. For example, community parks and the number of trees, the number of green spaces. Access to good food, access to gas, access to decent schools, access to transportation systems,” said Gabriel.

In spite of decades of segregation and the fact that it still exists, North Omaha is making progress.

ARPA funding from the federal government is now being used to invest millions of dollars in North Omaha. We held a meeting with members of the community to discuss the issue and ask them what they would want to see that money utilized for.

“More restaurants, healthy restaurants at that. We would like to see more things in the community. We don’t have a Whole Foods down here, we don’t have a gas station on 24th Street, we have to go to Carter Lake or up to 30th for that,” North Omaha resident Keiria Marsha said.

We are going to investigate these themes, how we got to this point, and what the community’s goals are for the future over the course of the next two weeks.

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