Lack of Recognition:
If you’re from Omaha, Nebraska, there is one name you’ve probably heard of in relation to the African American Civil Rights movement (https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/civil-rights-movement): Malcolm X. He was born in North Omaha and is an integral part of black history. As expressed in Adam Fletcher’s article (https://northomahahistory.com/2019/02/14/a-history-of-omahas-malcolm-x-day/) on the history of Malcolm X Day in Omaha, Malcolm X is an “iconic figure for all oppressed people seeking empowerment;” however, his birth city has lacked in giving him his hard earned recognition. You would think that such a city would want to celebrate this well-known icon and plaster his name on schools, parks and more, but all we see today is the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation (https://www.malcolmxfoundation.org/). To learn more about the history of Malcolm X’s life, please click here (https://northomahahistory.com/2019/03/13/a-biography-of-malcolm-x-in-omaha/) to read “A Biography of Malcolm X in Omaha,” also written by Mr. Fletcher.
Past Malcolm X Day Celebrations in Omaha:
For more than two decades there were celebrations of Malcolm X Day in Omaha, which is celebrated on either May 19th, Malcolm’s birthday, or the third Friday of May. These were held to honor Malcolm X’s life and the amazing things he did for the black community. Let’s take a look at a timeline of the Malcolm X Day celebrations and observations of the past in Omaha:
- 1968 – First annual Malcolm X Day Celebration in Omaha
- 1969 – Hundreds of students skipped school to celebrate Malcolm X Day
- 1970 – Okumbie Dancers of Minneapolis and Omaha’s Afro American theatre group performed
- 1971 – Gene Leahy, Omaha’s Mayor at the time, signed a proclamation for Omaha to celebrate Malcolm X Day from the 16th of May to the 22nd of May
- 1974 – 10,000 people attended a Malcolm X Day parade in North Omaha
- 1976 – Formal dinner hosted by the Wesley House where Ernie Chambers, the former Nebraska State Senator, spoke about Malcolm X’s life
- 1981 – Open house held at the Great Plains Black History Museum; you can find them on Facebook @Greatplainsblackhistorymuseum (https://www.facebook.com/Greatplainsblackhistorymuseum)
- 1983-1986 – Malcolm X Day Run
- 1990 – Dr. Betty Shabazz, Malcolm’s wife, spoke in Omaha during Malcolm X Day celebrations
- 1997 – Oran’s Black Americana Historical Museum hosted a wax sculpture of Malcolm X; this was the last known Malcolm X Day observation in Omaha
Even though these Malcolm X Day celebrations have since stopped in Omaha, his legacy still lives on through yearly Malcolm X Festivals (https://www.unomaha.edu/college-of-arts-and-sciences/black-studies/events/malcolm-x-fest.php), typically hosted in April, at the University of Nebraska Omaha, as well as through the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation.
The Push for a National Holiday:
Now, although 1968 was the first year that Malcolm X Day was requested as a national holiday by the Congress for Racial Equity, 1990 was the year this gained the most support. This was the year that a nationwide movement occurred to declare May 20th, 1990 as national Malcolm X Day. Unfortunately, it was never declared by the federal government; however, it gained support by a few cities. Berkley, California now observes the holiday yearly by closing schools and city offices, and Washington D.C has hosted an event every year since 1971. Maybe just one more push is needed to solidify this day as a national holiday.
Malcolm X Memorial Foundation:
Let us finish up by looking into Malcolm X’s footprint in Omaha Today. Even though there is nothing else named after Malcolm X standing in Omaha today, we do have the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation founded by a Mrs. Rowena Moore. The Malcolm X Memorial Foundation has gained 15 acres of land around the birth site of Malcolm X; they have built a plaza, interpretive center, educational memorial, and a community garden here for people to enjoy and educate themselves. You can find the foundation on Facebook @malcolmxfound (https://www.facebook.com/malcolmxfound). Excitedly enough, this year Freedomtainment (https://freedomtainment.com/) will be hosting the first annual Omaha Freedom Festival (http://omahafreedomfestival.com/) at the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation in celebration of the Juneteenth Holiday (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juneteenth) on Saturday, June 19th. As we celebrate Juneteenth this year in Omaha, we must remember Malcolm X as a staple in North Omaha’s culture and continue to recognize this icon in the way he deserves.