NORTH OMAHA Native Omaha Days
What functions do community celebrations serve in the North Omaha community?
"Never Forget Where We Come From"
Research Complied by Rickey M., Quintez L., Dalyce T., Monica D., and Akia S.
Native Omaha Days is important to North Omaha because it brings back memories. It's where the black community comes together, has fun, and talks to each other. Native Omaha Days is where people from across the country come to Omaha and get together to celebrate the North 24th Street culture. This biannual event has become a main stay in the North Omaha community. The founders of Native Omaha Days were two black women, Vera Johnson and Bettie McDonald. Native Omaha Days was founded in the mid 1970's.
Native Omaha Days is about having fun, listening to music and enjoying great food, and it's a great place to have family or class reunions. The parade route goes through North 24th Street giving it historical significance. In 2011 the route will change to the much wider 30th Street, to accommodate the growing number of participants.
Vera Johnson and Bettie McDonald created Native Omaha Days, because they were disappointed with California's Native Omaha Days. They felt as though it didn’t capture the essence of North Omaha. On the bus ride home they devised a plan to create a homecoming event in Omaha. They both remembered how in 1977, the first year, Native Omaha Days had only 15 people. The following biannual event drew 100. They are proud and happy to see the growth of this event and want it to continue to grow and improve each year. One of their favorite memories is the gospel fest, because they love to hear the choirs sing.
There are several step teams that participate in Native Omaha Days parade, such as the Iroquois Junior Herd, Christ Drill, and the Over Hill. One in particular is Salem's Stepping Saints, founded by Jackie Boaks and Phyllis Hicks in 1966. Salem's Stepping Saints continue to participate in this event. When the step team first started it had between 10 to15 people. Today, the step team has between 30 to 40 people ranging from the ages of 12 to 20. This step team embodies the message of Native Omaha Days which is to unite people of various ages, religious beliefs, and backgrounds. (Photo courtesy of Douglas County Historical Society).
"The Native Omahans Club, where events are planned and held, is located at 3819 North 24th Street."
I learned that before the riots North 24th Street was a community with lots of businesses, however since the riots most of the buildings still remain torn down. The riots caused many people to move out of the area, because of the lack of jobs. Yet, there has been an effort made to rebuild the community. Native Omaha Days parade allows the community to see the growth as they walk along North 24th Street.
By knowing your history, your future will become much easier. Ms. Vera Johnson is living proof of this, because she is a part of North Omaha’s history. If it wasn’t for her and Bettie McDonald there would be no Native Omaha Days. The best part of this experience was taking pictures and making a movie. I want to be a photographer when I grow up, so this has been a great way for me to practice!
I first thought that this program would be boring. Now that I’m here, I’m able to see how the information I am learning connects to my life. I learned that the food I eat is known as soul food. This type of food may be found during Native Omaha Days.