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A crowd moves along Dodge Street on a march to Memorial Park for a solidarity rally on Sunday in Omaha.

Omahans set the right tone over the weekend for the journey that lies ahead as our city works toward racial progress. At public gatherings, the atmosphere was constructive, cooperative, determined. But this is only a starting point, another wake-up call in our long history of wake-up calls.

To have lasting meaning and bring about genuine progress, this beginning must lead to new thinking, new cooperation and new action.

The gatherings set a positive tone for the work that lies ahead for Omaha. On Sunday, the march from 72nd and Dodge Streets to Memorial Park featured a large, diverse crowd in terms of ages and races. At the rally, leaders and residents spoke of the need for people’s awareness to be awakened and for key community issues to be addressed.

“We just need this to continue,” James Scurlock II told the Memorial Park rally, attended by more than 2,000 people. Scurlock’s son, James, was killed May 30 in downtown Omaha during protests against the killing of George Floyd. “This is going to be a long journey, it’s a hurtful one for all of us.”

“ ‘No more’ to two Omahas,” State Sen Justin Wayne, one of two African American members in the Legislature, told the rally. “It is time to come together as one Omaha with one voice. We can’t just come together in times of tragedy. We have to come together and stay together to make sure we are implementing changes for the long term.”

Former Husker football star Damon Benning, who is black, brought his family to the rally. As he observed to a World-Herald reporter, Omaha is in for some “real hard discussions” in working toward solutions to the city’s racial challenges. “If we can find some commonality that is people-driven, people-led,” he said, “we’ve got a chance to have some real change.”

The work ahead for our city will be challenging, and Omahans must understand that these racial issues involve great frustration and pain for many minority residents, as multiple testifiers made clear Monday in impassioned statements during a hearing held by the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee.

Omaha is only at the beginning of a long journey. Let’s use this vital opportunity to promote dialogue and achieve real progress.

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