Image provided by: University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries, Lincoln, NE
About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Nov. 16, 1992)
Despair seethes in North Omaha
1 drove home to Omaha this week
end. Each time I go, I take the
old route —1 Highway 6.
I passed all the small Nebraska
towns filled with big secrets and the
once popular, now practically de
.. YJjgQgdj JLinomaJBeach. resort that in
the 1950s and 1960s refused to allow
black folks in.
[As I zoomed east on
the latter part of high
way and Interstate 80,1
glanced out my window
at the subdivisions in
The $90,000 to
$200,000 homes were
lined up in neat rows.
Unblemished paint was
glued tight to the large, sturdy wooden
frames. Even the. fall lawns were
manicured and free of leaves. The
streets were smooth and free of pot
holes, down to the curbs.
From the interstate, life there ap
peared to be so secure and sheltered.
Perfect even, like on television.
But I drove past all that serenity.
My exit was farther down. The inter
state wound around the city like a
fence. I drove past 84th Street, past
60th Street, past 42nd Street.
Street numbers descended in rela
tion to the income, race and social
standing of the people who lived on
As 1 neared my exit, I looked again
at the houses. These were small, paint
flaked and leaning on their founda
tions. Some houses stood burned,
abandoned and boarded up. Bright
yellow condemned signs were tacked
to the wooden windows.
The lawns in many yards were dirt,
where old cars rested idle like lazy
Vacant lots dotted the neighbor
hood. This is where I call home. The
existence I have always yearned to
escape from yet am so refreshed to
retreat to whenever I can.
It’s a paradox of cultures. My fam
ily always told me to spend my life
trying to escape FROM where I came
Many of the white people I know,
on the other hand, spend their life
trying to escape TO where they came
from. A lateral vs. vertical life jour
ney. The latter journey seems more
Whenever I go home, there is one
street that continues to puzzle and
sadden me. The infamous 24th Street.
Old and-young meg standalongthe
crumbled sidewalks. I see the same
faces every time I go. The same faces
I have seen for years. Ageless.
Broken wine and liquor bottles
glisten in the morning sun. Trash swirls
around the lots where some of the old,
black men sit talking about lost dreams,
lost opportunities. They are hopeless
now. At the stop light I listen and
This is the fabled street that was
once cal led the heart of Omaha ’ s black
community. When white folks would
ask other white folks about where the
black folks lived, they would say, “In
North Omaha, near 24th and Lake
I used to hang out on 24 th Street (or
the Deuce, as we called it) when I was
a kid. Me and my buddies were al
ways into something, like trying to
sneak into movie theaters or standing
in front of the ice business on hot
summer days, waiting for the ice
workers to give us a piece or two.
Almost all of the businesses that
lined both sides of 24th Street in the
1950s and 1960s were owned by Jew
ish businessmen. There were clothing
stores, furniture stores,grocery stores,
I never wondered back then why
all the stores and businesses in a black
neighborhood were owned and oper
ated by white people. Twenty-fourth
Street wasa tiny island of white wealth
surrounded by a sea of black poverty.
That was just the way it was — until
I remember silling next to my bed
room window one spring night that
year. I was only 6 or 7 years old. Our
house was about 2 1/2 blocks away
from 24th Street.
My brothers, then in high school,
ran into the house, hot and angry
about something. Shouting. Scream
ing. They smelled like smoke.
My mother told me to slay in the
“Just stay in the house. Don’t be
Her grave words grabbed me and
forced me to obey.
Outside my window I saw flames
reach into the night air like whips. I
heard glass breaking, shattering. Si
rens screamed. Dogs barked, not like
they do at the sound of a noise, but
vicious barks that pushed back their
hackles. Above this all, I heard the
shouts of men and women and gun
I sat there at my window, curious,
afraid, wondering what was going on
in the heart of the black community.
I didn’t know, but I knew it was
something horrible, because of the
anger in my brothers’ eyes.
My brothers raced into the house
carrying all sorts of things. One had a
new television. Another had clothes
draped over one shoulder and shoes in
the other hand.
Where did they get that stuff? My
mother screamed at them. They
And out they ran again, with base
ball bats and chains.
The fire burned all night. My broth
ers finally came home and stayed.
They sal around the living room with
their heads in their hands. Tired. Frus
trated. Angry. They cried.
Martin Luther King Jr. was shot
the day before. They were talking
about it. Some white man gunned him
down. Killed him like an aninjal.
The most influential black man —
arguably the most influential man,
period — of the time, gunned down
like a wild dog. My brothers said that
when hedied, sodid their hope and his
dream. They were con fused and lashed
out at oppression and racism.
The scars of that night arc still
visible all along 24th Street in the
vacant lots and crumbling facades.
The visceral scars of despait are
still visible in the eyes of hundreds of
unemployed black men and women
who roam the street every day like
zombies, their anger extinguished long
ago, like the flames of that night in
Moss is a graduate student in anthropol
ogy and a Daily Nebraskan columnist.
Past presidents live off taxpayers
When Bush steps down in
January, he will be a former
president. You may not have
thought about this yet, but unless Dick
Nixon or Ronnie Reagan kicks off
before then, we will have five —
count 'em up, five — former presi
dents alive at one time: the aforemen
tioned trio pi us Gerald FordandJimmy
a I thought that sounded
Thai’s a lot of presi
dents. A truckload of
presidents, perhaps. Al
though why they would
all go in a truck some
where together, I can’t
imagine. Maybe a
golfcartload of presidents is a more
In fact, the only other time five
former presidents have been alive at
one time was during Abraham
Lincoln’s first term; specifically, un
til July 24, 1862, when Marlin Van
Burcn finally died. He hung on through
eight other presidencies.
The average number of presidents
alive when a new president assumes
office in the United States is 2.46. If
our present presidents persist until
Clinton takes the reins, the average
will rise to 2.58, which I think is
something of an accomplishment.
It certainly is a boon to the incom
ing Clinton. Just think of the vast
range of experience and wisdom he
can draw upon for advice — every
thing from “You think we’ll be able to
pull this off, Mr. Nixon?” to “What’s
the future hold for Scorpios, Mr.
The downside to all these pesky
presidents running around is that it
costs taxpayers a princely sum. This
year, for four presidents, we paid out
$ 17.2 million for pensions, protection
and other perks, such as presidential
* 9 *
I’m not really sure what goes on in
a Former President’s Office. Reagan
has his in L.A., Carter’s is in Atlanta,
Ford gets all his work done in Palm
Springs, Calif., and Nixon puts to
gether paper clip chains outside of
New York City. Probably they mess
around with the photocopiers and an
noy the secretaries.
That is, of course, when they don’t
have any of that Important Former
President Work to do. Everyone knows
we don’t have enough bureaucrats
messing around with the country al
ready — we need to pay past politi
cians to lend a hand as well.
The Secret Service security former
presidents receive is by far the most
expensive item we pay for — SI5
million last year alone. And that’s not
even counting Nixon, who waived his
protection in 1985.
That S15 m i 11 ion seems I ike a lot of
money to guard three people. Who,
for instance, would care about offing
Ford? He was there, he was gone, now
he’s a footnote. I don’t know how
muchof the S15 million goes for Ford,
but even if it was a small percentage,
say half a million or so, I’d take the
I’d vigilantly stand guard against
those huge hordcsof Anti-Ford Resis
tance Group members, not to mention
the Die Ford Die party, the Let’s Kill
a Meaningless President organization
and the I Betcha I Could Shoot Gerald
It sounds I i kc there must be a better
way of doing this whole former presi
dent business. These guys get a pen
sion, an office* the Secret Service, a
staff and a free “I’m the Grumpiest
Former President Before My Morn
ing Coffee” mug. Something’s got to
give before we have five of them
No one can say for certain if there
is a connection, of course, but the last
lime we had five formers, our nauon
was lorn by Civil War. Thai’s the
thing about former presidents — you
give them an office, a bunch of people
with guns, a lot of money and you let
them go. Then we expect them to
I think we could handle this whole
thing much more economically. Now
that we’re going to have five former
presidents, we might as well rent one
house somewhere and move them all
there. Nixon and Ford could probably
even share a bedroom.
It would also make much more
sense to have all of their cute, little
offices in the same building. Then all
of them could carpool to “work,” or
better yet, take the bus. They would
take turns making sandwiches for each
otherevery morning. Someone, maybe
George, would have to remember to
give Ronnie his Flintstones and cut
the crusts off his peanut butler and
The wives would be a problem.
Maybe they could live across the hall.
I don’t know, I haven’t thought through
thatquandary yet. Barbara and Nancy
would probably have to be separated.
When the boys arrived at work,
they would be expected to do some
thing useful, such as make crochet
hats or yarn loop rugs. Ronnie could
perhaps fingerpaint. Taxpayers might
sec some return on their investment
for a change.
Realistically, we probably won’t
have this problem for very long.
Reagan is 81, N ixon and Ford arc both
79, and Carter and Bush are 68. Be
fore we know it, we’ll look around
one day and find ourselves well under
the average former president allot
After the huge war, that is.
Phelps is a juniur.news-editorial major,
the Daily Nebraskan wire editor and a colum
Enter the Air Force
W immediately after gradua
tion — without waiting for the
results of your State Boards. You
Force nurse officer. And if selected
during your senior year, you may
qualify for a five-month internship
at a major Air Force medical facili
ty. To apply, you’ll need an overall
2.50 GPA. Serve your country
while you serve your career.
USAF HEALTH PROFESSIONS
•John Lee Hooker
Prices effective through 11-23-92
o/4.T l$omas Jewelers
The Smart Choice
Lincoln's Largest and Finest^^^^^
Collection of Quality Diamond Bridal Sets
The A.T. Thomas Guarantee Assures You of...
•Diamond Quality ‘Lifetime trade-in value
•Precise modem cut for ‘Lifetime cleaning and
maximum brilliance inspection
•Protection against *Money back-satisfaction
diamond loss guarantee
<*y?.T JJJomas Jewelers
OpenL- -—,---.-- East Park Plaza
Sundays220 X. 66th
Powered by Open ONI