Juneteenth 2018

Juneteenth 2018

About the film

A multi-year examination of race in Omaha, Nebraska - where the white-black gap is as extreme as anywhere in America - told through the stories of tireless leaders in the black community, a revolutionary race-relations church group, and a talk radio show host. Along the way, we see a city divided, with a disengaged public and detached city leadership. Leading us along is the filmmaker, born and raised in the white suburbs of West Omaha, coming to grips with his personal journey of discovery and self-realization as he reconnects with his conservative family following his father’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

In 2014, a national publication listed Omaha, Neb. as one of the most dangerous places for African Americans in the United States. Citing homicide rate, child poverty and under-performing education to stake their claim, the story - and others like it - went unnoticed, undiscussed and ignored by a large share of Omahans. Simultaneously, Omaha received consistent praise for having a low unemployment rate, a strong middle class, and as a great place to raise a family. Omaha’s city branding was “we don’t coast.”

This film examines these conflicting narratives, offering a complex and nuanced view of race relations and the impact of violence in Omaha over the last 4 years — paying particular attention to the North Omaha community and highlighting the stories of activists and citizens who are striving to make a difference. While in conjunction, the film studies the conversations taking place in Omaha about systemic racism, white privilege and race relations in a city largely unengaged and with elected leaders detached from the situation.

Asking difficult questions that are uncomfortable to talk about, the filmmaker becomes immersed within several communities - with intent to listen and understand. As Omaha, like America, finds itself in a time of deep division. As a white person, the filmmaker examines his own journey of white privilege and fragility, looking inward. And as he asks his city to have a hard conversation, he takes the story back home to the suburbs of Omaha for one with his own family, demonstrating first-hand the need and ability to have these discussions at all levels.

At the end of 2018, Omaha achieved a milestone not seen since the 1960s - 106 consecutive days without a homicide. But despite the dramatic changes seen across the black community, this film considers if the rest of the city will ever change their views on North Omaha.

“Are we just going to sit back and wait, until Omaha becomes another Ferguson?” one participant suggests to us. It’s one of many profound questions posed in the film, that culminates by asking: how much sleep have we lost?