“Out of Omaha” DVD E185.96.O98 2019

Systemic racism. It is a term that has become increasingly common over the last few years in the United States, particularly since the tragic murder of African-American George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, in May 2020. That murder and the protests it sparked continue to challenge the status quo of long standing power structures. It also confronted the way many white Americans view their own privilege and definition of racism. Despite the ubiquity of the protests and internet-based discussions, these undeniable problems may seem somewhat distant to white Americans living in the Omaha-metro area of Nebraska. The area surrounding the main Bellevue University campus can feel removed from the issues of racism and discrimination “those other places” face. This, however, cannot be further from the truth, as can be seen in the documentary, “Out of Omaha.”

Recorded over the course of seven years, this film tells the story of Darcell Trotter and his twin brother, Darrell. The young men grew up the in the neighborhood of North Omaha, a pocket of the otherwise affluent city plagued by crime and violence. The residents, as well as the Trotters, are African American, and they experience the poverty, gang culture, and racism pervasive in that area. The beginning of the documentary put the situation in stark terms:

“Omaha has the highest per-capita of millionaires in the country, but then we also happen to be the deadliest place for African Americans in the country… North Omaha becomes this—you know, in a city of riches; in a city of, really, a decent education system, has a 6-square-mile radius that is trapped in 1965. And so it becomes a gravitational pull that is hard to fly out of.”

Darcell, who wanted to break out of gang involvement, earned a scholarship from Avenue Scholars, a program designed for at-risk youth and taught by those who had escaped the cycle of poverty in the past. This step, however, proved difficult to follow through on due the constant pressure to earn money through gang participation and being wrongfully arrested for a crime. Darrell, who embraced gang life, almost killed a man and moved to Grand Island. When Darcell was finally released, the expensive lawyer fees and other complications also saw him move to his father’s home. After many twists and difficult situations, the film ends on a high note with the brothers living in their own home and opening a store together.

The choices the brothers make throughout the documentary are not always the “right” ones. However, it is made clear that the situations at hand often make those decisions extremely difficult, if not impossible, to navigate successfully. This hard-hitting film provides the viewer with an intimate look into the everyday lives of two North Omaha residents. It is a place to start for those interested in learning and affirming how the Black Lives Matter movement applies to the Omaha metro area. Come check it out for 7 days from the DVD section of the Bellevue University Library, or view it on the Kanopy database while social distancing at home.

Originally posted in the Freeman/Lozier Library’s quarterly newsletter, More Than BooksV. 23 No. 4, Fall 2020.

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