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Black museum groups unite for street renaming

Posted at 10:26 PM, Nov 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-22 23:26:25-05
A step toward unity between two African American history groups, struggling to find common ground on where Omaha's black history museum should be located.
 
The city council voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to rename Lake St. to Bertha Calloway St. between 22nd and 24th in north Omaha.
 
The street name is a sign of cooperation between both sides of the issue. 
 
Omaha’s historical black history museum at 24th and Lake has been the subject of controversy for 17 years.
 
One side, the Bertha Calloway Foundation, says it closed five years ago because of mismanagement by the Great Plains Black History Board of Directors, which has some of the artifacts at the Crossroads Mall.
 
"They abandoned the black community,” said James Calloway with the Calloway Foundation. “They're very upset about that. They've still got a chance to come back. The black community is forgiving. If they come back and reestablish themselves, that would be good for them." 
 
The Great Plains Board of Directors disagrees and says the museum has been closed 17 years and was condemned by the city before they reopened the museum in the Crossroads Mall. 
 
One thing they agree on is changing part of Lake St. to honor local civil rights leader and artifact collector Bertha Calloway.  
 
"The street she's named after is worthy of this accomplishment,” said Rudy Smith, president of the Great Plains Black Museum. “I support it and the director of the Great Plains Black Museum supports it also." 
 
Former Omaha Mayor Hal Daub supported the museum on Lake St. from 1995 to 2001.
 
Renaming a portion of Lake St. is a step towards uniting both sides, Daub said. 
 
"This street naming is a rallying point, in my view, and can bring us together to get that job done,” Daub said. “It's time. We ought to get it done and everybody ought to come together to try to accomplish the mission."