July 15, 2016 by
Photography by Doug Meigs

Black Lives Matter protesters gathered in Omaha on Thursday, July 14, to raise awareness about institutionalized racism. Alecia Anderson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, attended last night’s Black Lives Matter protest.

Dr. Anderson shared her reflection with Omaha Magazine:

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending the “Black Lives Do Actually Matter” protest rally organized by Val Gipson and others at the corners of 30th and Ames. I was particularly eager to attend this protest event as it was scheduled to take place in the heart of north Omaha’s black neighborhoods.

The southwest corner of 30th and Ames.

The southwest corner of 30th and Ames.

Prior to attending, I was concerned about turnout. Last week’s Black Lives Matter protest took place in the less-diverse western part of the city. Internally, I questioned whether these same folks would feel comfortable coming to the predominantly black neighborhood.

Fortunately, I was not the least bit disappointed. Despite the hot temperatures and a concurrently scheduled “Black Lives Do Matter” demonstration in Lincoln at the state capitol, over 500 protesters came out to 30th and Ames with signs and chants in solidarity for the black lives that have been lost recently at the hands of police in various cities across the nation.

Upon our arrival to the southeast corner of the intersecting streets, we were greeted by several protesters, offered bottles of water, and invited to create signs at a table. We’d brought our own, but as others came, we shared the same information and several folks strolled to the table to make signs of their own.

The crowd was impressively diverse with individuals who seemed to be from different racial or ethnic backgrounds, varying forms of gender expression and sexualities, noted by the rainbows on their clothing. I recall thinking, “This is precisely what the #blacklivesmatter creators were going for.”

Looking from the southwest corner of 30th and Ames.

Looking from the southwest corner of 30th and Ames.

Despite, or possibly because of, the diversity in the crowd, everyone I could see was being polite and supportive. There were no skirmishes, no “shady” or “disapproving” looks given in any direction, no antagonisms. There were simply smiles and handshakes, and waves of car horns from drivers who shared their solidarity as they passed by—several made it a point to pass through the intersection multiple times with horns blaring and peace signs in the air.

There were a few outbursts of emotional frustrations in the crowd, but the police officers who were there remained calm and maintained peace with what, from a distance, appeared to be patience and respect. Every request we were given was presented to us in calm tone and with a “please” to finish.

I noticed officers playing Frisbee with children and posing for photographs with protesters and their signs. Val, and other leaders, encouraged the crowd to comply with rules that had been communicated for the event, including its end time, and when the time came, the crowd dispersed as peacefully as it assembled—amid offers of water bottles for the road, “thank yous” for attending, and hugs. Some might say that this was just a few hundred folks on a Thursday evening in Omaha, but then again, every waterfall begins with a single drop.

Dr. Alecia Anderson holds a sign quoting Malcolm X with a group of sociology students from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Dr. Alecia Anderson holds a sign quoting Malcolm X with a group of sociology students from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and her wife.

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