Vindication and Affirmation

Nov 5th, 2008 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

For some of us who lived through the 60’s and fought the battles, particularly those waged around civil rights issues, Tuesday was a day of vindication. A Lutheran colleague emailed me last night; his note read,

“A dream realized… I don’t mean just the election of Obama… But the dream we worked for… The diversity of people at the celebration.. All colors, All ages, holding hands and crying for joy….. A glimpse of heaven on earth… Congratulations old friend.”

He reminded me of just how far we have come.

We were on the front lines of numerous issues in Omaha, Nebraska from the mid sixties forward. There was no issue of major import in which our footprints weren’t found marching to and for issues of justice and equality.

Before the City Council, we testified in behalf of enabling equity in locating housing for minorities all over the city. Once, it was necessary to be escorted out of the City Council’s chambers, because of those whose vehemence toward our stance bordered on volatile. The changes eventually came.

We stood with younger people, who wanted a place to assemble, peacefully, in Memorial Park and Elmwood Park. We met with the Police Chief, urging calm and compromise.

We organized to work in favor of integration in the public school system and busing. The School Board became our target.

We detected discrimination in the funding provided to agencies through United Way. We were able to bring that issue to the forefront and to accomplish fairer and more balanced
distribution of community funds.

We created interracial dialogs enabling whites and blacks to confront each other with their prejudices and fears. Hundreds of groups came to Omaha for exposure to urban life and racial issues. Many had never been in the same room, or even town, with a person of color.

In 1969, we were able to create major funding through church sources to address many of the inequities in minority communities. This program stretched beyond the city to address growing disparities in rural areas. Many of those programs continue to this day.

In the face of racial tensions in minority neighborhoods, sometimes leading to riots or near riots, there were few white faces to be found. Because trust had been established, our presence was granted safe passage.

Ours was an advocacy and arbiter role. In retrospect, we did not accomplish all we might, but we helped to open doors and windows that too often were not only locked, but nailed shut. For every major issue, we were able to pull together coalitions to help keep the issue focused and the outcome fair.

Omaha, still not without its own problems, has become a major cosmopolitan city. Douglas County, in its vote Tuesday, supported Barack Obama. In a way for a couple of ministers who found our calling in Omaha, Tuesday gave vindication and affirmation to much of what we sought to accomplish in those long ago years.

Indeed, “Congratulations, old friend!”



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