I participated in the North Omaha History Harvest in the Fall of 2011. Prior to that experience, despite being a senior in college, I had almost no knowledge of the history of racism and discrimination, or the history of achievement and community-building, in the black community that was right there, so close to mine. Getting to interact with the many wonderful individuals we met in the community of North Omaha, hearing their stories and collecting their historical artifacts was both an eye-opening and inspiring experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. It was precisely this interactive, community-oriented learning experience that was so transformative for me.
In addition to the actual “harvest” that we conducted, I really enjoyed helping to preserve the artifacts contained in the Great Plains Black History Museum, an important community institution which had been closed for more than 15 years. Working with those one-of-a-kind historical objects related to black experience in this region taught me the pride of a community that refused to be defined simply by the segregation and racism surrounding them.
I now am working towards becoming a high school teacher. Because of my experience with the North Omaha History Harvest, I am motivated to find ways to give my future students innovative, experiential learning opportunities like the one I had as a part of this project, and to ensure that I pass on to them a knowledge, an awareness, and most of all, a celebration, of the diverse, but often hidden, histories found right there in our own communities.
Matt Koziol was an undergraduate student in the North Omaha History Harvest course held at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the Fall 2011 semester.