Originally Published: January 16, 2023
North Omaha commemorates MLK Day with eye on economic improvement
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Black Men United teamed up with Big Mama’s Kitchen to celebrate at The Highlander on North 30th Street. Big Mama believed that simply sharing a meal could change the world.
“When I see the dining room full of people from all walks of life and economic statuses, I know my family is carrying on Big Mama’s traditions of bringing people together,” said Gladys Harrison with Big Mama’s Kitchen. “Particularly in this climate where we’re so divided on some issues, there are things that are common amongst us, and today is an example of people coming together.”
Senators Terrell McKinney and Justin Wayne have been central to turning King’s words into action with the Economic Recovery Grant Program built out of LB 1024 — a pool of hundreds of millions of dollars to target jobs, infrastructure, small business development, and reshaping historic sections of the community, such as 24th Street.
“A lot of times, all we hear about it (the March on Washington) — he was fighting for voting rights and bus boycotts,” McKinney said. “We rarely hear anyone talk about Dr. King fighting for economic rights and economic inclusion of Black people in America. To me, that’s the biggest thing that stood out from everything he did.”
Wayne says true change for North Omaha comes in a two-pronged approach to closing the wealth gap — growth of small businesses and putting home ownership within reach.
“What I’m proud of with this plan is the person who wanted to put new windows on their house had the same opportunities as the big developers in Omaha,” Wayne said.
365 applications were submitted, with a need of $3.5 billion. They have $330 million to spend this time around.
As Sen. Wayne said, the need is clearly there and beyond — and he’s just getting started on transformational change.