The name Preston Love is as important to Omaha’s musical heritage as any in the city’s history. The North Omaha saxophonist was a legendary jazz musician, and his résumé included work with Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Janis Joplin and Frank Zap-pa. While Love went elsewhere to prove his worth as a musician, he has still left a permanent mark on the music scene of Omaha, and the history of North Omaha in particular.
Preston Love, Jr., burdened or blessed with the name of his legendary father, is attempting to make a mark of his own here on North Omaha and on campus. Instead of music, however, Love Jr. is focused on political action and community engagement.
An experienced staffer for many local and national political campaigns across the nation, Love is turning his years of political experience to use as an adjunct professor in the Black Studies department here at University of Nebraska at Omaha.
He’s also dedicated to improving the lives of his fellow North Omahans by increasing civic participation and engagement, a quest he began in earnest after returning to the city in 2006, and what has been the subject of the book he published earlier this year, entitled “Economic Cataracts.”
These missions converge in a series of events organized by Love with the Service Learning Acade- my that bring high school students from North Omaha’s Benson High School to UNO’s campus to collaborate with students in Love’s own Black Politics class.
The first of the three scheduled events occurred on October 14th. High school students from Benson High’s African-American History class were bussed to UNO, where they were given a tour of campus in multiple groups.
After their tour, they converged in the Community Engagement Center, where they enjoyed a catered lunch. They were spoken to briefly by Love, Dr. Imafedia Okhamafe, chair of the Goodrich Scholarship Program, Dr. Cynthia Robinson, chair of the black studies department and Ricky Smith, diversity and community outreach admissions counselor.
The speakers provided them witat UNO, and the importance of giving back to their community.
Professor Love’s Black Politics class then took over, first participating in a lively back-and-forth with the Benson students on various Black Politics subjects.
One high school student spoke about the topic of abolitionism, and queried the college class for their definition of the term “abolitionist.”
In one of many such inter-changes that occurred over the course of the day, a member of Love’s class stood up and delivered a passionate example of what an abolitionist was, citing the history of his own home state–Kansas. Love’s students then each briefly presented a topic they had prepared to the students.
Love is trying to promote more civic participation in North Omaha by engaging with the high school students in this way.
One of the goals of these events is for both sets of students collaborate on a project to increase voter registration in North Omaha, an initiative they will begin to iron out the details of over the course of the two remaining meetings.
As Preston Love, Jr., adds professor and author to political staffer and community organizer on his resume, he is attempting to make a concrete impact on the lives of not just the students in his Black Politics class, but on the lives of high school students and residents of North Omaha.