Recently, a few of the staff here at Christ Community Church, including Lead Pastor Mark Ashton, were a part of group of pastors from the area that went to Alabama and Georgia to participate in a Justice Journey. Twenty-five African-American pastors/leaders and twenty-five white pastors/leaders from the area went down south to tour and learn about some of the pivotal points in our nation’s history with regard to race. It was a powerful experience for those that went, and it was good for the area pastors and leaders to experience it together and share with one another what they were thinking and learning.
But now what? Well, at CCC we are going to be proactive to make sure we don’t repeat some of the mistakes and sins of churches in the 60’s who turned a blind eye to the racism that was prevalent at that time. There are a number of things getting into place right now, but you will hear more about race from the front. Early in the summer there will be a message series that deals with the issue of race. There will also be a Sunday morning elective that people can attend that will delve into the matter more. Tim Perry and Andre Sims will be teaching the elective, and they also were on the Justice Journey. What else is in the works? That’s where I come in.
Two days ago I was tasked to create and produce a podcast that would delve into Omaha’s racial history. As it was presented to me, the podcast would hopefully inform and educate those that attend CCC. Stereotypically speaking, those that attend CCC are white and found in the suburbs. A number of them are not educated in the realities of the African-American population in Omaha, and the sometimes ugly history of racism in Omaha.
Growing up I heard some of the ignorance when attending a Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter out in Millard. The high-school I went to didn’t have one, so I drove out there to attend. (As most of you know, I grew up in the Dundee area of Omaha.) A number of Millard students and parents were ignorant about where I lived. Some students were not suppose to go east of 72nd Street so they wouldn’t get shot by gangs. The whole thing was funny to me then, because if you’ve been to Dundee you know how ridiculous the idea is that they are roving gangs in that area. (There could be hipster gangs that would harass you for not listening to This American Life or Conor Oberst, for not shopping at Whole Foods and not driving an eco-friedly car. This is more likely, and just as improbable.)
Nowadays, when I hear that kind of talk it isn’t funny but rather sad. There still is ignorance in pockets of our suburbs. It is said in less overt words and tones. I heard it a lot during the recent annexation and school district debates in the area. Ignorance. People fear the unknown. And, in the absence of information, people tend to fill in the gaps in the most diabolical manner. (I see this is in the church, unfortunately, at times.) The ignorance also stems from geographical segregation in the city.
So, creating and producing a podacst on Omaha’s racial history, no big thing right? (Yeah right.) It is a big thing, but I’m excited about the project and am already throwing myself into it. The daunting aspect is the limited amount of time to do it. Limited in comparison to similar projects that can take months or up to a year. Heck, the Oscar nominated documentary A Time for Burning (which takes place in Omaha) just focuses in on one part of Omaha’s racial history. That was an hour in length, and took a lot of time and resources to put together. That standard is in my thinking when I approach this project.
I don’t think anyone is expecting an award winning piece with this podcast, but it still needs to have excellence. It also needs to be handled with care.
I’m grateful that Tim Perry and Andre Sims have agreed to help me out with this project as I plunge ahead blindly. Their insight, experience and wisdom will be extremely beneficial.
At CCC, we already have some good things in place to help bridge the racial gap. We have Compass Ministries in north Omaha, we have a burgeoning relationship with Salem Baptist Church, and we have many more ministry and personal connections within the African-American community. We can do more, though, and I am excited I get to play a role in helping to bridge that gap and perhaps eradicate racism a bit more here in Omaha.
If you have any suggestions, insight or information that you think might be helpful, please let me know!