NOISE Report - March 4

U.S. Highway 75 is a federal highway that starts in Dallas, Texas and ends in Kittson County, Minnesota. Construction on the Nebraska portion commonly known as 75 North Freeway began in the late 60s.

The original route was planned to run through Dundee but due to pushback from the neighborhood’s wealthy white residents, seventy-five was successfully re-routed.

Jennifer Keys, who was involved with the NAACP during the freeway’s construction, described the climate at the time:

“We didn’t have that collaboration, coalesce, cohesiveness to stop a project like that. it just wasn’t going to happen because we were so minimized.”

To complete the project, the City of Omaha used eminent domain to purchase people’s homes for significantly less than the actual value, typically between five and ten thousand dollars.

Ben Gray at Right on the set of Nite Caps with Maria Corpuz

Ben Gray at Right on the set of Nite Caps with Maria Corpuz

City councilman of North Omaha, Ben Gray, described the status of the freeway when he moved to Omaha in 1971:

“When I came here, the freeway ended at Hamilton street. Okay, I mean, you couldn’t get off on Hamilton street.” “Eleven thousand people were displaced, eleven thousand for that freeway.”

The construction of 75 North was completed in 1986 but had successfully divided and drained the community by that time.

Many families did not have enough money to replace their homes and were forced westward, into project housing, or out of town.

Keys at Center, Chapman at Right

Keys at Center, Chapman at Right

More Than Neighbors, a play written and directed by Denise Chapman, reflects on the construction of 75 North and its impact throughout the years.

Chapman said the play was a way to retell history while inviting new visions for the future.

Ultimately she hopes people are encouraged to move forward:

“How do you uplift your neighbors in a way that they can be excited about the place that they live in, right? Once we recapture that, I feel slowly and surely we start to rebuild the block and we start to rebuild our understanding of community. And while it won’t ever be what it was, it definitely can be better than it is.”

What’s up this weekend?

Sunday, come out for The People’s Potluck, a community food sharing at Clair Memorial United Methodist at 55th and Ames. Bring a hot dish and/or non-perishable good to share. Take leftovers home and remaining donations will go to Clair Memorial’s food pantry. Dinner starts at 6pm.