OMAHA – Family fun, food, music and political activism were on display in the heart of downtown North Omaha on the historic 24th St. corridor Sunday afternoon during the inaugural Omaha NeighborFest featuring the Black Votes Matter: Concert for Change rally.
A variety of street activities, including workshops and pop-up demonstrations, along with vendor booths from local small businesses organized by Minorities About Business were featured. In addition, many city and non-profit resources were on hand.
Event organizer Preston Love Jr., who is also founder and director of Black Votes Matter, hoped the weather would not put a damper on the overlying message of the day.
“You know if lightning, if anything can stop a Nebraska football game, surely it can stop a little neighborhood fest. All of that is now history. We survived that and the people are getting, hopefully, the message that we intend to send.”
That message, with two months until Election Day, is to further educate and inspire the North Omaha Community to participate in their future through community and political engagement, using music, speakers, workshops, vendors, activities and interactive neighborhood project ideas in a festival setting, and ultimately to see more people at the polls on November 6th.
This event comes out of a need. This community which is so rich in history in culture and in economics.
Love feels the need for community engagement in North Omaha, especially with local government, is important to create positive change.
This is the time of the year where we have less than 60 days or right around there where people will be voting; we’re hoping to wake them up. Have fun, but wake them up. So we’re interweaving the fun with the serious, so we’re hoping people won’t get away the same.
The point Love wanted to make was that the North Omaha community has power at the ballot box, and they need to use it.
But you know, you can not give an isolated message on an isolated subject to a community that isolated itself. You got to ratchet it up from where they come from. Where do they come from? They come from barbecue ribs down there, they come from all kinds of diverse music, that they come from. They come from small businesses. They come from that and so we need to be part of that in order to get them to be part of registering to vote.
The event, together with the Concert for Change, united musicians and music fans in efforts to bolster the central core message of community engagement through representation. Featured bands from across the spectrum included Trent Tukka, Dolores Diaz and the Standby Club, Mesonjixx and BOTH, among others
Longtime Omaha musician, DJ, activist, and organizer for the Concert, Roger Lewis agrees.
“Not just black folks, all folks, but especially people of color they need to vote in their best interest or at least give themselves a chance to make some positive change.”
Lewis saw the opportunity to spread and educate the events shared message through music as a means to an end.
I always had a dream of doing an outdoor concert for something, not just a concert but to have a platform for speakers or any activists to say what they got to say.
Lewis says he feels the importance of youth involvement, and interest in the voting process is especially important.
“If you want me to rank it [youth] from 1 to 100 I would say 1,000. The youth is the future, I know its super cliche to say, but its the truth and you’ve got to get these people engaged at a younger age, you know.”
It’s a lesson 17-year-old campaign volunteer Tyler Henningson says his classmates need to hear and fully understand.
“You learn in your government classes, government is important, … but nobody takes it to heart and in my opinion what I’ve seen in school is they disregard politics. They think it’s just something nasty, but they don’t realize the fact that the more you get involved, that you make your voice heard that you support what you think is right that’s really one what our nation is about and two the only way to enact change in politics,” said Tyler Henningson.