The Omaha City Council voted to nominate a portion of 21st Street from Clark Street to Paul Street as “Vivian Strong Street,” after an unarmed Black girl who was shot and killed by a police officer in 1969.
Vivian Strong was 14 years-old when James Loeder, a member of the Omaha Police Department, shot her in the back of the head on June 24, 1969 as she and other kids ran from an apartment party at the Logan Fontenelle Housing Project. The shooting set off three days of unrest, protest and riots which have remained an integral part of Omaha history. Loeder was later acquitted of manslaughter and reinstated to the police department.
Members of the Strong family told the City Council Tuesday that memorializing her would help the community heal.
“We’re extremely happy to be at this point, but it’s bittersweet,” Sherman Wells said. “From 1969 still to this day to have the same devaluation of human life, Black human life, still unaccounted for as far as justice.”
Carol Larry, Strong’s sister, spoke via Zoom from her home in Nevada. She was 13 years-old when Strong was killed. She said her family and the community were never the same after her sister’s death.
Former Omaha Human Rights and Relations Director Franklin Thompson said he was only a few months older than Strong. He said the ramifications of her death damaged race relations at Omaha Technical High School for years afterward.
“The story of the Vivian Strong murder has a far wider reach than the average American, the average Omahan understands,” Thompson said.
Thompson, representing the Community Council for Racial Justice and Reconciliation, invited the City Council to the street renaming ceremony on June 16, as well as a ceremony for a historical marker on July 28.
Councilmember Juanita Johnson said this was long overdue, and she thanked the family for bringing it to the city. The City Council approved the resolution unanimously.
The Douglas County Board of Commissioners also met Tuesday, receiving a monthly update from Corrections Director Mike Myers.
Myers said the department reached 92.6% of authorized staffing levels as of March 31, and that they will be fully staffed sometime this spring for the first time in years. He thanked the Board for their support and the corrections training department for reaching the milestone.