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MARCH 2023 | volUME 30 | ISSUE 01 (DIS)Invested: The Downward Spiral, Part 4: Healing Time Dish: A Kombucha Encounter to Remember Film: Ryan Awards: Good Things In Bad Movies FLIPCOVER
Bye-Bye, Birdies? MORE  CliMAtE CHAngE, HAbitAt lOss POsE tHREAts insiDE tHis issUE
photo By MARti PHilliPs
CHRis bOwling & ElizAbEtH MillER thE REadER ClIMatE CEntRal April 7 Hoff Family Arts & Culture Center May 13 & 14 Orpheum Theater
March 2023 3


graphic designers

John Heaston

Ken Guthrie Albory Seijas

news Robyn Murray

production editor .. Michael Newgren

lead reporter .............. Chris Bowling

associate publisher ... Karlha Velásquez

report for america

corps member......... Bridget Fogarty

creative services director Lynn Sanchez

editorial & membership associate Arjav Rawal



Mike Krainak

backbeat MarQ Manner

dish ............................... Sara Locke

film ................................

Ryan Syrek

hoodoo ................ B.J. Huchtemann

over the edge

Tim McMahan

theater Beaufield Berry OUR

DIGITAL MARKETING SERVICES PROUD TO bE CARbON NEUTRAL March 2023 4 table of contents 18| Picks Cool Things To Do in March 22| Dish Kombucha with a Cause: It’s No Con, Fermented Felon Is a Pro at Brewing Booch That Can’t Be Beat 24| Back Beat Rapper, Rocker Shines a Light in the ‘Dark’ 26| Film The Inaugural Ryans: Finally, an Award Ceremony You Should Care About 28| Film Reviews Hot and Streaming: TV Roundup 29| Cutting Room Film Musings 30| Crossword by Matt Jones 31| Comics by Jeff Koterba, Jen Sorensen & Garry Trudeau 32| HooDoo Blues Rock ‘n’ Roots: Clubs Are Jumping and Summer Festival Dates Are Here 34| In Memoriam Mary Ann Krzemien 35| Over the Edge Haters Gonna Hate: Philly Indie Rock Band Grocer Criticizes Negative Criticism (DIS)Invested The Downward Spiral: A Final Word News Catch Up on Local Government Coverage Backbeat Omaha’s Local Mic Nights Culture 1st Sky Omaha — Community Radio (DIS)Invested | The Downward Spiral, Part 4: In Lieu of Systemic Solutions, the Community Comes Together to Heal online only features news 06| Jobs Safety Net Sunset News | Bye-Bye Birdies? Climate Change, Habitat Loss Pose Threats 08 13

Torch Awards for Ethics return for 26th year to celebrate businesses, charities

The most prestigious awards offered by the Better Business Bureau are back and open to applicants. Unlike other awards, the BBB Torch Awards for Ethics focus on demonstrated ethical business practices, rather than a company’s growth, profitability or popularity.

Formerly known as BBB Integrity Awards, the BBB Torch Awards for Ethics has returned in 2023 to honor businesses and charities located in Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota and Southwest Iowa.

“These awards are a unique spotlight for the integrity-driven organizations in our communities that do the right thing when no one is looking,” said BBB President and CEO Jim Hegarty. “This will be our 26th year highlighting organizations that each of us can be proud of. The BBB Torch Awards for Ethics embodies BBB’s mission of advancing marketplace trust. We can’t wait to celebrate with all the winners of these important awards.”

Businesses and charities in Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota and Southwest Iowa that have operated under the same ownership for three or more years and have earned at least a “B” rating with the BBB are eligible to apply. Organizations do not need to be BBB Accredited to apply, and there are no fees associated with applying. Find more information on our FAQ page: FAQ.

Independent panels of judges from the business and philanthropic arenas will select the award recipients. The application deadline is April 28, 2023. Those interested can apply online:

“We believe celebrating the best in our service area makes us all better,” Hegarty said. “Please take this opportunity to honor the work of your team by applying for these awards.”

Benefits for Award Winners:

n Recognition as an award winner in press releases, blog posts, social media, local advertisements and BBB’s website

n Enhanced customer confidence

n Increased employee pride

n A distinct Award for display

n Customized promotional materials

n Instructions to advertise the award to your communities and stakeholders

n A Torch Awards winner’s logo that can be used on your website and in marketing efforts

n Winners’ applications from for profit and 501(c)(6) organizations will be submitted for the International Torch Awards competition

Note: Only winners’ applications from the charity categories that are BBB Accredited Charities can be entered for the International Torch Awards.

Award Categories Include:

n Businesses with 1-4 employees

n Businesses with 5-10 employees

n Businesses with 11-24 employees

n Businesses with 25-99 employees

n Businesses with 100-349 employees

n Businesses with 350-499 employees

n Businesses with 500+ employees

n Charities with 1-24 employees

n Charities with 25+ employees

About BBB:

BBB is a nonprofit, businesssupported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. BBB services to consumers are free. BBB provides objective advice, BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit for more information.

March 2023 5

Safety Net Sunset SNAP BeNefit S Set tO Be rOlled BAck tO Pre-PANdeMic level S

This story is a follow-up to last month’s Omaha Jobs column.

Last month, The Reader wrote about the challenges that Omaha’s social safety net faces, particularly as it pertains to housing and food insecurity. Omaha-area nonprofit leaders addressing these challenges talked candidly about the benefits and drawbacks associated with the influx of funding for pandemic-related relief.

but the challenge extends beyond just the nonprofits that serve the poor. Eligibility requirements for government programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, are at risk of being rolled back.

In May 2021, the Nebraska Legislature voted to extend SNAP eligibility to families making up to 165% of the federal poverty level (for a family of four, the income cutoff would be $4,125/ month). This extension is set to expire Sept. 30.

before that, SNAP was only available to families making a gross income of 130% or less ($3,250/month for a family of four). After Sept. 30, SNAP requirements will return to these criteria.

A 2022 report from the Center on budget and Policy Priorities said just under 50% of Nebraskans on SNAP are members of working families. Working households receive $328/

month on average, which is above the $243/month average for all households. Just 18% of recipients have incomes above 100% of the federal poverty line (a monthly income of $2,500 for a family of four).

Then-Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed the bill to extend SNAP eligibility out of concern that the Legislature would permanently preserve the extension after it expires, which would deter Nebraskans from returning to the workforce in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Legislature voted to override him.

A 2021 report from the National bureau of Economic Research found that the work requirements on SNAP have no effect on the employment rate and that it’s unclear whether they boost the self-sufficiency of recipients. However, a 2018 report from the Center on budget and Policy Priorities said most people who are of working age and receive SNAP benefits work unstable jobs with low pay and no benefits.

“SNAP’s dual function as both a short-term support to help families afford food during a temporary period of low income and a support for others with longer-term needs is one of its principal strengths,” according to the report.

State Sen. Jen Day, who represents north-central Sarpy County in the Legislature, introduced a bill that would remove the sunset, exactly what former Gov. Ricketts

said he didn’t want. She said making the extension permanent costs the state virtually nothing, since SNAP is a federal program.

“Now would be the worst possible time to roll back any increase,” Day said. “We should not be taking food out of the mouths of our constituents.”

Data provided by Day’s legislative office indicates about

4,500 households in Nebraska would lose SNAP benefits if the extension sunsets.

It’s unclear whether the bill will be considered, along with any anti-poverty legislation being introduced this session. The Reader asked senators from the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, which would consider the proposal, for an interview; other than Day, nobody responded.

Company: Concentrix CVG Customer Management Group Inc.

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Concentrix CVG Customer Management Group Inc. has mult. openings for Software Development Engineer in Test in Omaha, NE; travel and/or reloc to various unanticipated locations throughout the U.S. is required. Telecommuting may be permitted. Develop, write computer programs to store, locate, retrieve specific documents, data, information. Req. Master’s degree in Comp Sci, Engg (any), or related tech/analytical field, plus two (2) yrs of exp in an IT/Comp-related position.

To apply, email Resumes via email to with

Job Ref# 224321 in subject line

March 2023 6 OMAHA JOBS


Gallup, Inc. seeks Lead .Net Applications Developer in Omaha, NE. Lead team of .Net Applications Developers in the design, development and implementation of software applications, write application code in the Microsoft .Net environment according to functional specifications defined, develop unit testing around said code, and participate in team meetings discussing the architecture of the system. Responsible for managing large development tasks, disseminating to other programmers on the team, and participating in and leading code reviews.

Min. req. Master’s degree in Computer Science, MIS, Engineering or related or foreign equivalent plus 2 years work experience with the required skills: required in C#, ASP.NET, MVC, .NETCore, Angular 9, Typescript and the .NET framework and SQL programming.

Gallup is a federal contractor and must abide by President Biden’s Executive Order 14042 concerning COVID-19 vaccinations. As such, all U.Sbased employees must be fully vaccinated. Gallup will consider requests for medical or religious exemptions to the vaccination requirement.

Gallup is an EEO/AAP Employer-Minorities/Women/Disabled/Veterans.

Please apply online at: or mail resumes to: Lisa Kiichler, 1001 Gallup Drive, Omaha, NE 68102


Gallup, Inc. seeks Senior .Net Applications Developer in Omaha, NE to design, develop and implement software applications, write application code in the Microsoft .Net environment according to functional specifications defined, develop unit testing around said code, and participate in team meetings discussing the architecture of the system. Responsible for large development tasks and participating in code reviews.

Min. req. Master’s degree in Computer Science, MIS, Engineering or related or foreign equivalent plus one year work experience as Computer Programmer, Software Developer or related IT Position. IN addition, evidence of completion of course work or 3 months experience required in C#, ASP.NET, MVC, and the .NET framework and SQL programming.

Gallup is a federal contractor and must abide by President Biden’s Executive Order 14042 concerning COVID-19 vaccinations. As such, all U.Sbased employees must be fully vaccinated. Gallup will consider requests for medical or religious exemptions to the vaccination requirement.

Gallup is an EEO/AAP Employer-Minorities/Women/Disabled/Veterans.

Please apply online at: or mail resumes to: Lisa Kiichler, 1001 Gallup Drive, Omaha, NE 68102

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The back office was cramped and drafty.

Bags of bird feed reached toward the ceiling as employees for Wild Bird Habitat Store wheeled shipments through an open garage door, their breath fogging in the February air.

A songbird’s chirps filled the room.

“Oh, that’s mine,” said Dave Titterington, the store’s owner as he silenced his chickadee ringtone.

The 72-year-old has run Lincoln’s go-to shop for bird seed, bird houses and everything bird related since 1993. He said his staff of about 10 employees moves between


ClimaTe Change, haBiTaT loss Pose ThreaT s

14,000 and 18,000 pounds of feed a week.

But feed and birdhouses are just the hooks.

Titterington speaks to Cub Scouts and Rotary clubs, hosts events with notable authors and documentarians and serves on local and statewide boards. What keeps his customers coming back is the awareness he helps foster about people’s connectedness with birds — the ones they hunt or watch through binoculars, the ones that boost their agricultural economy and the ones facing big threats.

“My whole theory was if I can get people interested in

birds in their backyard … it generates an interest for other bird species and builds a public consensus when issues like climate change come up,” Titterington said.

Nebraska’s unique ecology of arid prairie, lush grasslands and vast waterways makes it perfect for sandhill cranes, greater prairie chickens and western meadowlark. All told, 467 bird species live in, stop by or migrate through the state, according to the Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union.

But climate change and habitat loss have led to ranges shifting and bird populations declining. Since 1970 North America has lost

30% of its birds — about 3 billion in total, according to a multi-institution study published in 2019. Birders like Titterington notice the drop in the birds arriving in his backyard, and he and others worry for their fate. The warming climate is more frequently producing weather conditions unsuitable for iconic native species.

“People need to really pay attention because birds are the canary in the coal mine,” Titterington said. “They’re the ones telling us that we’ve got a lot of problems with the environment … If we lose birds, we might mirror them.”

March 2023 8 NEWS
S TORy By Chris Bowling,THE READER & ElizaBEth MillEr,CLIMATE CENTRAL Red-headed WoodpeckeR Melanerpes erythrocephalus Least teRn sternula antillarum LesseR pR aiRie chicken tympanuchus pallidicinctus Long-biLLed cuRLeW numenius americanus LaRk bunting calamospiza melanocorys gReateR pR aiRie chicken tympanuchus cupido shaRp-taiLed gRouse tympanuchus phasianellus bL ack-biLLed Magpie pica hudsonia Some of the Nebra Ska SpecieS vulNerable due to climate chaNge. photos couRtesy of the audubon society SaNdhill craNeS oN the platte river. photo by MaRti phiLLips.

A Constant Onslaught of Changes

Every year, hunters from nearly every state in the country flock to Nebraska with rifles and bird dogs. The object of their pursuit is a more-than-foot-long bird that cackles, struts and dances in the prairies of Nebraska’s Sandhills. Those that chase the plump sharp-tailed grouse help support a $4 billion, 24,000-job industry of hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing in Nebraska.

The region is the southernmost edge of the grouse’s habitat, as well as others like the northern shrike and the white-winged crossbill, and even if the most ambitious goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement are achieved, Audubon Society scientists have projected that much of the sharp-tailed grouse’s habitat could be lost from Nebraska. The more grasslands are lost to development and farmland, and the more fossil fuel and other pollution that gets released during the coming decades, the smaller their range is expected to be here.

“Humans come in, modify the landscape, and you’re poking away at the resiliency of the landscape,” said Stephen Brenner, an avian ecologist with Nebraska Audubon. “Birds are not as able to withstand this constant onslaught of changes.”

As native species evacuate the state, some newcomers are expected to take their places. The American woodcock, for example, a northeastern bird that’s becoming difficult to find in the eastern U.S. is starting to show up in Nebraska.

“We have a lot of species at the edge of their range, the edge of what habitats they can use and not use,” Brenner said.

The threat is faced by some of Nebraska’s most iconic birds. Every year, 400,000 to 600,000 sandhill cranes with slender necks and cherry red faces stop at the Platte River on their cross-continental migration.

In 2017, nearly 50,000 people, the vast majority visiting from other states, watched the cranes take flight against a multi-colored Nebraska sunrise and generated $14 million in tourism funds, according to a University of Nebraska at Kearney study.

But climate change is impacting them, too. Already cranes are arriving a day earlier per year. If temperatures continue to rise, the places they choose to stop over in Nebraska could become less plentiful, increasing the risk of disease spreading among dense pockets of cranes, according to a multi-institutional 2020 study.

“Birds tell us so easily, ‘Look, this is happening. Here’s what’s already happened. Here’s where it’s at now, and here’s where it’s going,’” said Jason “The Bird Nerd” St. Sauver, education director at Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center in Denton, Nebraska. “It’s really clear.”

Making Progress, But Not Fast Enough

St. Sauver grew up listening to bird calls in South Dakota’s prairies. He now teaches kids and adults about our avian co-inhabitants. In his off-time he’s birdwatched in all but seven of Nebraska’s 93 counties.

He can’t imagine a life without them. And neither, he’s guessing, can fellow Nebraskans.

“If [people] got up in the morning and they didn’t hear birdsong, they would call us immediately,” St. Sauver said.

One of the best things people can do to support birds is cultivate native plants. These plants, available at stores like Mulhall’s in Omaha and Campbell’s in Lincoln, grow the right kind of food or attract the insects that birds eat. In turn, the birds help insects fertilize and pollinate plants, control pests and perform a number of other services that keep our environment in balance.

March 2023 9 NEWS
BoBolink Dolichonyx oryzivorus PiPing Plover Charadrius melodus Ferruginous Hawk Buteo regalis Pygmy nutHatCH sitta pygmaea mountain Plover Charadrius montanus sHarP-taileD grouse tympanuchus phasianellus eareD greBe Podiceps nigricollis nortHern sHrike lanius borealis Dave TiTTeringTon sTanDs in his shop, WilD BirD haBiTaT sTore, in lincoln. PHoto By CHris Bowling.

“You’d be amazed at the kind of impact you can have even in your own yard,” Brenner said.

Many cities, such as Lincoln, Minneapolis and Kansas City, are prioritizing native plants for public spaces, which help birds as well as require less water, improve air quality and reduce erosion. Often these initiatives are part of wider climate action plans, which Kristal Stoner, executive director of Audubon Great Plains, manager of Audubon societies in Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota, would like to see Nebraska adopt.

To date, 33 states and 252 cities have such a plan to respond to climate change, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and the Zero Energy Project,

respectively. While it’s not a new concept — Iowa has had a climate action plan since 2008 — Nebraska hasn’t made much progress. Currently Lincoln is the only city in Nebraska with a plan. A bill to develop a statewide plan was introduced in the Nebraska Legislature in 2021 but was indefinitely postponed.

“We need something that’s comprehensive and uses the climate change lens to think about Nebraska’s future and what’s going to be good for wildlife, what’s going to be good for people,” Stoner said.

The state is projected to see some of the highest decreases in crop yields as temperatures continue to rise, according to research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Meanwhile, residents

believe the community has to do something even if politicians are slow to respond. Research published in August by Princeton University and Indiana University Bloomington scientists concluded 59% of Nebraskans are concerned about climate change, but they mistakenly believe they are in the minority.

Some bright spots can be found federally. In 2021, Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska co-sponsored the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which aims to make selling carbon offsets easier for farmers and landowners.

“This is something in the climate space, her constituents, landowners, are really going to benefit from,” Stoner said. “That’s how we’re going to [move forward] is when people see mutual

benefits. It’s no longer just a climate thing. It’s a human thing.”

At the same time, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which would have provided $1.3 billion annually to wildlife conservation funds, including $17 million annually in Nebraska, died last year in Congress. However, Congress did pass climate legislation as part of the Inflation Reduction Act in 2022. With $370 billion to promote renewable energy, energy-efficient homes and more, the legislation was called the “largest single step that Congress has ever taken to address climate change” by the World Resources Institute.

As far as Nebraska is concerned, Stoner thinks the state could do more to pull its weight. Though Nebraska isn’t inundated with wildfires or seeing shorelines shrink, the effects of climate change are just as real here.

“I think we need to move faster,” Stoner said. “I think there’s a lot of good progress that has been made. I think we’re moving in a positive direction. But I think we’re not making all the changes that we need to be making.”

Start with a Conversation

In 1986, Titterington built his first bird feeder on his daughter’s Girl Scouts

continued on page 12 /

March 2023 10 NEWS
Brewer’s sparrow spizella breweri Brown Thrasher Toxostoma rufum ChesTnuT-Collared longspur Calcarius ornatus Field sparrow spizella pusilla easTern Towhee pipilo erythrophthalmus easTern whip-poor-will antrostomus vociferus evening grosBeak Coccothraustes vespertinus mCCown’s longspur rhynchophanes mccownii The WesTern MeadoWlark is nebraska’s sTaTe bird, buT iT s nuMbers are dWindling ThroughouT The sTaTe. phoTo By roger van gelder.
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campout in Iowa. The group took empty plastic two-liter bottles and punched holes into them for perches and feed slots. When he got home, he thought he ought to hang it up.

A few years later, he opened his store.

Birds hadn’t previously been a fascination for Titterington. But once he started noticing his winged visitors, there was no turning back. Now he’s immersed in the robust economy built on the passion among Nebraskans and tourists for birds — and working to protect it.

“That’s one thing about us is we can talk to people on a layman’s level,” Titterington said. “It really helps them understand a little bit better, or at least makes them want to look into it a little bit more.”

Today, Titterington’s daughter, Katie, works the cash register while he’s in the back office. Someday, the plan goes, she’ll own this store and continue what he built. He thought about selling it about five years ago but decided against it — there’d be too much risk of the store not surviving.

“Anybody can sell bird feed. You can go to Hy-Vee, Walmart, any place,” Titterington said. “But those places can’t educate people.”

This story was produced through a collaboration with science and news group

Climate Central

Grassland Threats in Nebraska

Among the changes the Great Plains is facing is the loss of the historic herds of large, heavy grazers with which the grassland ecosystem evolved. That makes sustainable grazing practices on privately owned ranchlands in the state a pivotal approach for helping birds.

The single most important thing for sustaining birds in the state might be the conservation

of those habitats and efforts to restore functioning, healthy ecosystems.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers are currently studying how returning native grasses amid croplands could save water and support wildlife. These so-called “prairie strips” of native grasses, such as switchgrass, big bluestem and Indiangrass, seeded on a quarter of croplands are expected

to reduce water and fertilizer use and give a boost to biodiversity.

There’s also a push around Omaha to collect native seeds and plant them around the city to create pockets of ecosystems for birds, insects and wildlife, and native prairie grasses, better resistant to the heat and less in need of watering, have been touted as good candidates, particularly for city landscaping.

The Reader Is Joining Solutions Journalism Network as Climate Beacon Newsroom

Starting with this issue and continuing until September 2023, The Reader will be publishing stories about climate change, its effect on Omaha (as well as Nebraska) and ways each of us can make a difference. The project is a partnership with the Solutions Journalism Network, an international organization that aims to make journalism more accessible and our world more equitable and sustainable.

In late 2022, the Solutions Journalism Network selected The Reader as one of nine organizations to be a Climate Beacon Newsroom, which came with a grant of $20,000. The honor comes with training for our staff, opportunities to collaborate with knowledgeable organizations, such as Climate Central, and pursue transformation in our news coverage over the next several months. Of the grantees — which include big TV stations,

large newspapers and more — The Reader is probably among the smallest teams. In our application, we highlighted a lack of climate change coverage, and certainly solutions-oriented coverage, in our area and said we’d like to fill that.

If you want to get involved, send us an email at We’d love to share our story ideas and hear what you’d like to see us cover over the next several months.

March 2023 12 NEWS
western Meadowlark sturnella neglecta Mountain BlueBird sialia currucoides rough-legged hawk Buteo lagopus red CrossBill loxia curvirostra sC arlet tanager Piranga olivacea western wood Pewee Contopus sordidulus BlaCk-Billed MagPie Pica hudsonia wood thrush hylocichla mustelina

The Downward Spiral In LIeu oF SyStemIc SoLutIonS, tHe communIty comeS togetHeR to HeaL

stories, vigils, political grandstanding — but eventually it blows over and life moves on for victims like manning, whether they’re ready or not.

anD cRiminal jus Tice sys Tems. see The Online Table OF cOnTenT s On paGe 4 FOR a linK TO an OpeD cOlumn On The seRies

For the past several months, The Reader has investigated how systems in Omaha and nebraska have blurred the lines between mental instability and criminality. For our final story, we examine how Omahans are looking to their communities to find peace and healing. These solutions range from restorative justice to peer-to-peer counseling.

none of these is a panacea — someone struggling with a serious mental illness and multiple incarcerations doesn’t just need a support group. but we thought these small, hopeful stories show there are ways we can help one another, and that as bad as things get, they can still get better.

Healing through Restorative Justice

when Tabatha manning saw his face, emotion took over.

confusion. pain. anger.

memories flooded back. breakfast on a cold wednesday morning on jan. 15, 2014. a loud pop. manning’s 5-year-old daughter standing up, her head tilted backward, blood gushing from where the bullet tore through her neck.

The man sitting in the church pew in October 2018 didn’t kill payton benson, manning’s daughter, but he was part of the gang shooting that caught payton in the crossfire. The shooter, 22 at the time, spent three years in prison for first-degree conspiracy to commit murder.

after losing her daughter, manning, 41, couldn’t work, cook or hardly bathe. The shooting and screaming replayed in her mind. manning pushed herself and her four other kids to go to therapy.

but nothing resonated like the apology she got inside that church.

after a few minutes of sitting with him in the church, man-

ning’s anger cooled. she told her story. The man in the church pew, whose name manning asked The Reader not to publish to protect his privacy, told his. The fight started over a pair of shoes and ended in 15 gunshots.

“him telling me everything that happened unexpectedly relieved me of all of the guilt. i walked out feeling so much lighter,” she said. “Knowing that there was nothing that i could have done to stop it or change it at that point, knowing that he was taking accountability for killing her. his body language was huge. he was scared. he was terrified.”

months later, when she woke up on the anniversary of payton’s death, manning took a deep breath, exhaled smoothly and started to weep.

“i started crying tears of joy,” manning said through tears, “because i could breathe again.”

Gun violence generates a lot of attention at first — news

a 2018 report in the american journal of community psychology found people in highcrime areas are more than twice as likely to meet the threshold for moderate depression or diagnoses of post traumatic stress disorder. Residents in crime “hot spots” are also more likely to be poor people of color.

“it changed my perspective in a way that i didn’t see the trauma that everyone else had on their faces when i went out in north Omaha,” said manning, who at the time of payton’s death lived on 45th and bedford streets. “i could see the hurt caused by incidents like what i went through.”

it’s very hard for each side, or the community, to move forward, manning said, unless people who’ve caused pain and the people they’ve hurt heal together.

The conversation manning had is called a victim offender dialogue — an old concept that can reduce victims’ depression and trauma triggers as well as offenders’ anger, shame and self-blame, according to a 2020 report that studied these dialogues in colorado.

but they’re not for everyone. Research from canada showed between 40% and 50% of victims, who must initiate and control the whole process, want to meet their offenders, and the

March 2023 13 ( DIS ) INVESTED
sTORy anD phOTOs by Chris Bowling
January 2023 | voluME 29 ISS 11 JOBS: ra crea MINIM Wage WS: DefININ OM 2022 cuLture OODVIB ONLY theater the tage IS et art the -LIS ur gaLO hOODOO: ONthe OWN DIS Offer fOrthe W ear ILM: 5WO MOVI ILMreVI SSONION’Mur erBY te xceSS erthe MuSI VISIONS 2023 ck cOMI OSSWO FLIPCOVER tory photo Chris Bowling The Downward Spiral Caught Between omaha’s mental health and Criminal JustiCe systems, Families struggle to Break the CyCle PHOTO:inside uglas un al Cen ber allway. news, heater, rts, ish, and YEaR In [P]REVIEw
Shakur abdullah leadS a cla SS on reStorative juStice at the omaha correctional center.

number is lower for victims of violent crime.

It also takes a while. Manning has been working with the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services to meet the man who killed her daughter and was told it can take months or years to get to a point where administration thinks they can take the next step.

But there are other ways.

In 2022, Manning started working with the Community Justice Center, which offers a simulated restorative justice program in Nebraska’s prisons. Instead of meeting their victims, offenders spend a day hearing other first victim stories. Manning was the first direct victim to lead conversations.

“Sometimes I cry, sometimes I don’t,” she said. “And I tell them different stories about the ways that I’ve tried to comfort my children throughout this entire process … We’ve gotten letters since I’ve been helping with the classes, and it’s always thank you for sharing your story. It meant a lot to me. It’s always something positive.”

Sometimes it’s hard — like when the man who apologized to her in 2018, now 31, reoffended months after he met with Manning, charged with shooting and killing an 18-yearold. He promised to make use of his second chance, Manning said, and his involvement in another death angered her.

But her story isn’t going to change everyone’s life. She just hopes it makes some kind of impact.

After Payton died, Manning had her clothes stitched into a blanket that she could wrap around her children when they wanted to feel close to her. Some days they still need to feel that. Other days she’s surprised at how far they’ve come on their healing journey. When Manning told her youngest son she was going to make telling their fam-

ily’s story her job, his response let her know she made the right decision.

“He gave me a really big hug and just let me hug him back for a second,” she said. “And then he ran away smiling. This might be part of the healing process for him. Like he needs me to go out there and make everything safer for him.”

Confronting Grief

The walls are lined with artwork and Post-its. Linoleum floors reflect dull fluorescent lighting. The back room has enough crafts to occupy an army of kindergarteners.

The building near 72nd and Dodge streets seems like a place you’d host an after-school program. But a closer look reveals more.

“I just got goosebumps looking at that one,” Sandy Lemen said, holding a white plastic mask.

On the outside of the mask, kids wrote words that reflect how they think the world sees them. On the inside, they wrote how they really feel.


“That really strikes me,” said Lemen, director of programs at The Collective for Hope, a nonprofit that offers peer-topeer grief support, “that they’re feeling those things and they’re keeping it inside.”

Whatever type of grief someone’s experiencing, The Collective for Hope has programs to help, including Ted. E Bear Hollow for children and families; Grief’s Journey for pre-teens, teens and adults; and HEALing Embrace for women who have miscarried and those who have lost infants.

What sets The Collective for Hope apart from therapy or counseling (though the organization doesn’t recommend its programs as a substitute) is that it connects people with similar issues who can talk, find solutions and heal together. It’s also free.

In 2021, Lemen said The Collective for Hope staff helped about 2,000 people in groups ranging from toddlers to adults of varying ages. The complexity of grief also varies. Little kids may bury Barbies in small sandboxes with gravestones while teenagers paint and adults sit around a room and talk.

A typical day is hard to capture, especially for kids. Sometimes they blurt out that dad died or mom killed herself. Sometimes they hold it in like one 8-year-old boy Lemen got to know.

On the first day he put his head against the wall and sobbed. Lemen took him to the hall and let him breathe.

“He just spilled his heart about his loss and how they died,” Lemen said. “He was able to say it in a safe space without

having to worry about having to keep it in.”

Lemen came to The Collective for Hope in 2019. She’d worked in the wedding industry for more than a decade and made jewelry for people who’d recently lost loved ones. She heard about The Collective for Hope and decided to train to be a facilitator.

A month later, her nephew, who’d been more like her brother, died by suicide at 23. His funeral was the day before the training. Her 6-year-old daughter wondered why her “uncle” Dillon left without saying goodbye.

Suddenly Lemen was taking classes.

“Looking back I was like, ‘Well, where else would I have gotten that kind of support other than being in a room full of people who were here to learn how to help grieving people?’” Lemen said.

Suicide is especially hard to talk about. For Lemen, knowing this was a safe place to process her feelings among people with similar experiences had a profound effect on her healing journey. Today, The Collective for Hope has a program just for suicide loss.

Multi-colored beaded necklaces against one wall capture just how many types of grief the group sees. There’s blue, rainbow, black and many more that represent everything from grandparents dying to family separation due to immigration status.

While their group stays busy, Lemen knows there are always more people who could benefit — especially those affected by gun violence who rarely sign up for sessions.

“No one should have to grieve alone,” she said. “And our society is very much, ‘Don’t talk about it, move past it, sweep it under the rug, get

March 2023 14 ( DIS ) INVESTED continued on page 16 /
Sandy Lemen and her daughter, neeLy. Photo courteSy of Sandy Lemen.

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back to work after three days.’ We compartmentalize it.”

There are also limitations to how many people the group can serve. It’s been hard since the pandemic to get volunteers, and it takes a special type of person to guide people through complex, varied forms of grief.

But Lemen said the results keep them coming back.

At the end of each meeting, every participant and facilitator gather in the building’s main room. They join hands (or pretend to since the pandemic) and choose a positive word like “courage” to say together while squeezing one another’s hands.

At the beginning it usually feels hokie. Not many people are excited to be at a grief support group in the first place, Lemen said. But over time, something shifts. Walls come down, tears are shed, and people feel OK to laugh again.

“It’s magical, seeing them leave lighter than when they came in … we’re helping,” Lemen said. “You may not be able to put your finger on exactly what it is, but you can see that it’s helping them and that they’re doing better than they were before. And that’s [what] we care about.”

Finding Support, Inside And Out

Old floorboards creaked underfoot as people filed into the room. A cool December breeze moved through a cracked window to let out the old building’s stuffy, dry radiator heat.

Mel and Mary Beckman sat at one end of a table inside the Holy Family Community Center just north of downtown Omaha. They’ve been coming to these meetings since 1996 when they founded Family and Friends of the Incarcerated, a support

and advocacy group for people whose loved ones are imprisoned.

It started when their own son, David, went to prison. At the time they didn’t feel like they had anyone to talk to. Those willing to listen didn’t understand. Mel Beckman thought the best idea was to gather people who could relate, so they could help one another.

“Every time you get home from Family and Friends [of the Incarcerated] you feel better,” Beckman said. “Because you’ve either heard something or helped somebody. The system remains hard to deal with, but it gives you a little hope that you can impact it.”

When Beckman founded the group he had an extensive history in organizing as a priest, founder of the Bemis Park Neighborhood Association and activist against poverty, racism and violence. His work even caught the eye of the FBI, which logged him in an ‘80s-era domestic spying operation that targeted mostly liberal activists.

With Family and Friends of the Incarcerated, the Beckmans wanted to let people speak without judgment. For Debbie Schulkey, who lives near Blair, it’s been empowering at a time when she feels so little control.

“My son has been in for three years, and I still have trouble,” she said, her voice cracking. “I still have trouble with it. You know, you walk up to that place and see wires and fences. It just about kills you.”

People like the Beckmans who’ve known the system for years can help people navigate health care and visitation and recommend classes their loved ones should take inside. They also help with nuanced problems, such as how to retrieve property confiscated by law enforcement, lawyers to avoid and how to work the parole system.

Conversations veer toward what could be fixed. Soon after starting Family and Friends of the Incarcerated, Mel Beckman started the Nebraska Criminal Justice Review, a newsletter covering current issues in Nebraska’s criminal justice system.

“We felt the need to know the people who run the criminal justice system, get them involved with us, and then we can poke our noses into their business and try to point out what’s best and what’s worse to the system,” he said.

One of the group’s biggest wins over the years was pushing to end mandatory life sentences for juveniles who commit murder. In 2013, Nebraska lawmakers set the new sentencing range at 40 years to life.

But wins can be few and far between.

“We can’t really deal with the apathy of the public,” Mel Beckman said. “Even if you have something good to point out, the public are just not interested in criminals.”

Things get even more challenging when a loved one is struggling, like in 2019 when the sewers backed up at the Lincoln Correctional Center where Shulkey’s son was staying.

“Excuse my language, but there were turds and everything else all over the floor,” Schulkey said. “They made those guys sleep in that all night long. That’s not normal. That is sick.”

The Beckmans’ son went back to prison in 2020 after being released in 2002. He isn’t eligible for parole until 2034. They’re both in their 80s now and know there’s more than a strong possibility they won’t live to see their son walk free again.

“He’s worried about when we’re not here anymore, where he’ll go,” Mary Beckman said.

But even when things look bleak, Family and Friends of the Incarcerated offers some hope.

Jeanie Mezger, whose husband was incarcerated in 2015 for a sex crime, worried for years about her family falling apart, that she’d lose her job, that she couldn’t make it to tomorrow. But through groups like Family and Friends of the Incarcerated and Nebraskans Unafraid, an advocacy group for people on the sex offender registry, she found some peace.

“You go to this meeting and you hear somebody else say ‘What do you do about such and such?’ and you’ve got the answer,” Mezger said. “It gives [you] a way to remember that they are valuable people and that their experience, no matter how crummy it was, unexpected and all of that, helps somebody else.”

March 2023 16 ( DIS ) INVESTED
Mary (LEFT) and MEL BEckMan, F oundErs oF FaMiLy and FriEnds oF ThE incarcEraTEd.

Thank You Omaha, From Our (DIS)Invested Team

It’s been more than a year since

The Reader’s editorial team announced the start of our (DIS)Invested series in January 2022. When we first committed to the year-long series, we had big ambitions.

We told you we’d refocus our editorial team to prioritize reporting on Omaha’s inequities in housing, education, criminal justice and social services. We said we’d examine the issues impacting residents as systemic — not static — problems rooted in Omaha’s history of disinvestment.

It seems there was no better time to focus on this reporting. With plans to reshape Omaha’s urban core, a $2.3 billion affordable housing problem, $335 million in pandemic relief and state money coming into North and South Omaha and the mix of a tight labor market and an exodus of young Omahans, it felt like Omaha was at a precipice.

We said we’d report on how people in Omaha and elsewhere are finding solutions — and we promised to put Omaha residents and their stories first.

After more than a year of reporting, 12 print issues and more than two dozen stories later, here’s what we’ve learned.


The Reader news editor and reporter Chris bowling investigated how Sanitary Improvement Districts, a taxpayer-subsidized development tool, and suburbanization led to disinvestment in East Omaha neighborhoods. He built an online database nearly 4,000 readers used to look up the landlords whose buildings have the most code violations in the city.

Social Supports/ Family

Low-income families told reporter Leah Cates that they were being denied benefits, leading

her to report on how Nebraska isn’t spending hundreds of millions of dollars in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, an annual federal block grant given to each state to support low-income families. Reporter bridget Fogarty talked to young Latino South Omahans who are addressing health disparities and food insecurity for Latino immigrant families through free, bilingual health consultations and home gardens. Fogarty also reported from Omaha’s backlogged immigration court, where delays, cancellations and language barriers further complicate the already confusing immigration system for the more than 26,000 people with pending cases.

Criminal Justice and Mental Health

bowling spoke with families, elected officials, mental health workers, and Douglas County Jail leaders to learn how the mental health and criminal justice systems leave the city’s most vulnerable behind. His four-part series explores how those in the metro with the most serious mental health issues are left without help, cycling in and out of courts and the Douglas County Jail as their only mental health provider.

As Douglas County officials discuss allocating funding to a new mental health facility, we reported how people are working to improve mental health care elsewhere — such as Arizona’s investment in crisis response centers. bowling shared his reporting with The Reader supporters at the Dundee book Company.


Fogarty talked with families and reported how white student enrollment has decreased for the last 10 years in Omaha Public Schools, a wave of white flight notably accelerated by the pandemic. At the same time, we talked with black and Latino students

and families, the students who have missed school at higher rates than their white counterparts.

We reported on programs that can help improve student outcomes, like the Omaha Street School, which helps students who struggle in traditional school settings thrive, or the GOALS program, which helps advocate for students who are habitually absent and their parents.

Where to Now?

In taking on this series, we undoubtedly missed some stories — including planning for the Omaha streetcar and the central branch library demolition.

but thanks to the relationships we’re building in Omaha’s growing, collaborative local media landscape, we were able to be proactive, not reactive or competitive, with our coverage.

here’s what we know: Working together with journalists and community members helps us report news that’s a service to our readers.

Instead of fighting to “scoop” a story, we republish stories weekly from Nebraska’s newest newsrooms, the Flatwater Free Press and Nebraska Examiner, thanks to their collaborative missions. We teamed up with the Flatwater Free Press and Nebraska Public Media on two separate elections stories to widen our audiences and editorial resources. We rely on the dedicated, daily reporting of Omaha-World Herald journalists and local TV reporters who often break the news we follow up on and gather into our daily newsletter.

We were able to cover the (dis)invested series thanks to the trust and input of omahans directly impacted by the systemic issues we reported on.

We’ve counted on 1st Sky Omaha “chat chimers” who bring us story ideas and questions on early weekday mornings. We rely on Omaha Documenters, a civic journalism program The Reader helped bring to the metro, which trains and pays Omahans to document public meetings that would otherwise go unreported. We’re grateful to every student, parent, homeowner, renter, health care worker, teacher and Omahan who shared their perspectives for a story.

This series reminds us of what we already know: Local journalism is stronger when journalists not only work together, but also with the communities they cover.

As we close the chapter on (DIS)Invested, the project’s mission has become our newsroom’s mission. The Reader will continue to cover Omaha’s systemic issues and explore the solutions, for and with Omahans.

This starts with covering how climate change impacts Omahans and Nebraska, which we will focus on thanks to a Solutions Journalism Network grant. you can read the first story in this issue.

Read the full (DIS)Invested series here, and look out for an online special issue of the series’ stories. Got a story idea, question, or want to talk with us? Email us at

March 2023 17 ( DIS ) INVESTED

March 7-12

to do in MARCH

“Abstraction is my means to express emotion. My passion is finding and utilizing abstracted forms from my everyday visual experiences … I create a visual idea of the emotions I go through while experiencing feelings of anxiety or a variety of internal energies.”

Messick collages found imagery of her surroundings into photoshop and then translates these images to canvas using acrylic paint, acrylic paint markers, texture mediums and abstracted designs.

March 10-26

A Little Night Music

Bellevue Little Theatre

18th Annual Omaha Film Festival

Aksarben Cinema

The 18th Omaha Film Festival (OFF) will take place at Aksarben Cinema from March 7-12.

Despite discussions about its collapse, the art of cinema is surviving and thriving in one industry corner: indie festivals.

In fact, our annual Festival is part of the last refuge for film buffs — MovieMaker magazine voted OFF one of the “50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee” for two years in a row.

View the showcase schedule at, and check out the Weekend ($50), All Films ($65), and All Access ($90) passes. Or purchase individual tickets to the film of your choice for $7-$10.

March 10

Jada Messick Redux Project Project

Artist Jada Messick returns to Project Project with Part II of “I should probably find a therapist,” which opens Friday, March 10, 6-9 p.m. Featuring geo-abstract paintings, the exhibit will focus on mental illness, racial experiences, spiritual and personal growth, friendships, family, insecurities and “simply just making something fun to look at,” the artist said in her show statement.

Don’t miss the Grammy Award-winning musical “A Little Night Music” at the Bellevue Little Theatre from March 10-26.

Praised by The New York Times for being “sophisticated and enchanting,” the musical, set in 1900 Sweden, was written by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler. It first appeared on Broadway in 1973.

Fifty years later, the work still holds up. One of the most enduring tracks includes “Send in the Clowns,” which, for all you music nerds, switches between some very odd time signatures.

Tickets are $15-$25 for the 7:30 and 2 p.m. shows.

March 11

St. Patrick’s Day Parade Old Market

The 144th St. Patrick’s Day Parade will take place in the Old Market on March 11.

And just in case you didn’t know, St. Patty’s isn’t just about wearing green and bar hopping. Our annual parade represents the rich cultural contributions and struggles of Omaha’s Irish community since the 1860s.

The parade kicks off at 10 a.m. start at 16th and Harney and make your way to 13th and Howard.

March 11

Flogging Molly

The Admiral

Flogging Molly is coming to The Admiral on March 11.

The famously Celtic punk band, which has been shredding stages around the world since ’95, will share the spotlight with fellow punk legends Anti-Flag and British folk outfit Skinny Lister.

Flogging Molly’s sixth studio album, “Anthem,” was self-released to warm reception by fans and critics alike in 2022.

March 2023 18 W PICKS W

The record delivers on the band’s trademark, no-holds-barred sound, complete with drunken lullabies that effortlessly align with the spirit and name of its latest LP.

Doors open at 7 for this 8 p.m. show. Tickets cost $39.50-$59.50 before fees.

March 12


Omaha South High School

Though sometimes overlooked, the Gallery of Art and Design at Metro’s Elkhorn Valley campus offers regular showings by students, faculty and alum. Starting March 15, the gallery will feature “Mindscape,” work by Jing Huang, originally from China and currently residing in North Carolina. Jing, who will attend the opening, is the recipient of several awards and grants, and has exhibited, lectured and taught worldwide.

image. During quarantine, he writes in his show statement, he started experimenting with alternative processes “as a coping technique and time-filler.”

These images are direct evolutions of doodles he had been doing for years, of “simplified representations of idealized landscapes.”

March 17-18

Kaneko & Akiho

Holland Center

Experience “Folklórico” at Omaha South High School on March 12.

Led by conductor Enrico Lopez-Yañez and the Omaha Symphony, the event will include music by Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Peruvian, and Brazilian composers whose work represents some of the most exhilarating cultural diversity of Latin America.

You can count on captivating, choreographed dancers to elevate the performance and bring the passionate compositions to life with overflowing enthusiasm.

The performances will flow between English and Spanish.

Tickets cost $15 for this 2 p.m. event, which is co-presented by El Museo Latino.

March 15 - April 12


Ceramics by Jing Huang

Gallery of Art and Design, Metropolitan Community College

“Mindscape” features her recent ceramic work exploring elements of social and cultural displacement, identity, nature and sense of place. The primordial and voluptuous abstract sculptures are informed through dualities of East and West values and society.

Opening Reception: Thursday, March 30, 5:30-7 p.m.

March 17-May 10

Landscape, Seascape, Some Kind of Escape

Fred Simon Gallery, Nebraska Arts Council

Nebraska Arts Council’s Fred Simon Gallery offers “Landscape, Seascape, Some Kind of Escape,” a solo show by Joe Addison. The date and time for an artist’s reception were unavailable at publication.

The show features a series of bold, graphic images derived from experimentations with graphic arts masking materials and cyanotype, a process using chemicals and ultraviolet light to produce an

Grammy Award-nominated composer Andy Akiho will join the Omaha Symphony for a world-premiere performance over two nights at the Holland Center on March 17-18.

Akiho is a forerunner in today’s contemporary classical music scene. His specialty? He plays a mean steel pan.

With a little help from friends with the Omaha Symphony, the two nights are dedicated to Jun Kaneko. The 80-year-old Omaha visual artist has poured decades into creating trailblazing, abstract clay art.

Tickets cost $20-$81, with student discounts available. The shows begin at 7:30 p.m.

March 18

Afro Vibe Master Concert 2023

Benson Theater

Snazzy — a West African/ Omaha-based AfroBeat artist and choreographer known for his electrifying performances — has received nods from the Omaha Hip Hop Awards for his productions and for consistently leaving his audiences in awe.

This event will showcase a variety of local talent. And, as always, our diverse music scene is an unstoppable reason to spend a night in Benson spreading the good vibes.

The doors open at 7 for the 8 p.m. show. Tickets are $27-$55.

March 18

David Cross with Sean Patton

The Admiral Theater

March 2023 19 W PICKS W
Kusher Snazzy will headline the Afro Vibe Master Concert at Benson Theater on March 18. Emmy Award-winning comedic actor and stand-up David Cross will perform at The Admiral Theater on March 18 with opener Sean Patton.

Cross has been a stand-up for decades, co-creating the sketch comedy show “Mr. Show” with Bob Odenkirk in the ’90s and appearing in several films.

With his current act, entitled “Worst Daddy In The World Tour,” he’s prepared to double down on his unapologetic, dry humor and insights sandwiched between brash bits (but never at the cost of a laugh).

Tickets cost $39.50-$144.50 for this seated show, which starts at 8 p.m.



Art Battle Omaha City Championship

Culxr House

The Art Battle Omaha City Championship is going down at the Culxr House on March 18.

Ever caught wind of competitive live painting? Expect raw, unfettered greatness as some of the most talented and original visual artists create spontaneous strokes of genius before an audience.

Aside from serving as a fun local event, “Art Battle” takes place in over 50 cities globally, functioning as a launchpad for little-known artists.

Help daring, creative artists receive the exposure they deserve while sharing in their glory.

Tickets are $20-$30 for the 6 p.m. showdown.

March 24-August 13

James Surls: Nightshade and Red Bone


that recall molecular and botanical structures. Other hand-hewn works emphasize the inherent beauty in the grain, density and textures of wood.

Kaneko continues its deep dive into the oeuvre of sculptors whose work is featured at the refreshed Gene Leahy Mall with the retrospective “James Surls: Nightshade and Red Bone,” opening on March 24.

Surls is an internationally recognized artist based in Colorado whose singular approach to abstracting the forms and spirit found in nature will be the focus of this exhibition of sculpture, drawings and prints. Surls creates most often in wood and metal, fashioning airy, whorled shapes

March 30

Jillian Hernandez

The Bemis Center

Passionate about justice? Tune in for Jillian Hernandez at The Bemis Center on March 30.

Dr. Hernandez bridges the gap between knowledge and art, but not as an armchair philosopher.

She embodies her work. Her showcase, “Aesthetics of Excess,” centers the lived experiences of Black and Latinx women who breathe life into their communities in spite of a world that polices them.

A ticket to this event, which starts at 7 p.m., costs you nothing. Can’t make it? RSVP at to receive a link to the livestream on the day of the event.

March 2023 20 W PICKS W
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You may (or may not) be familiar with SCOBY, or symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. Famous for its probiotic properties, a mother culture can last generations, and is the foundation of a powerful batch of kombucha.

Given the right conditions, environment, and some patience, SCOBY has the potential to grow and thrive into a powerful superfood that can aid in digestion and balancing your gut biome. But that same SCOBY in an unhealthy environment can quickly turn bad. As powerful as the good bacteria can be in building a healthy environment, enough time kept where it doesn’t belong and the unhealthy bacteria will overpopulate, and your culture can go dormant, or even die.

Humans show up on this planet with the same potential and capacity. In the right environment, with the right support and resources, we

Kombucha With a Cause It’s No CoN , FermeNted FeloN Is a Pro at BreWINg BooCh that CaN’t Be Beat

can be incredibly powerful to invoke positive changes in even an unbalanced and unhealthy situation. But kept long enough where we don’t belong, especially early enough in our development, and it’s pretty easy to see those negative influences start to infect and take over.

Tony Horner spent a few years flirting with the possibility of going “bad” after exposure to enough negative input took over his rich and promising future. But his pursuit of a healthy and sustainable existence turned into renewed energy, a new business, and an opportunity to help others create the balance they’d lost.

“My first charge was at the age of 12 for stealing cigarettes,” he said. “By the time high school was over, I had nothing. Barely graduating, I enrolled at the local community college thinking that I’d figure it out. It wasn’t long after enrollment that I began to get into

more trouble, causing me to go on a whirlwind of self-destruction. The result was a 10-page rap sheet with years of probation, jails and rehab facilities.”

It may have been enough to send the promising young Omaha native into dormancy, but not enough to keep him there.

“I’ve always been a tinkerer,” Horner recalled, “from doing all of the diagnostics and most of the maintenance on my cars now, all the way back to when I was a kid.” The youngest of six children, Horner enjoyed reverse-engineering electronics around the house, and taking things apart to learn how they worked.

“Me and my brother figured out how to attach a motor to the wheels of a Lego car,” he said. “Once we figured that out, we could build out the car any way we wanted to instead of being confined to the original build and design of whatever remote control car we had on hand.”

That tinkering came in handy when the well-traveled mixologist decided to apply the knowledge he gained at some of finest establishments in Vegas, Redondo Beach, California, and Omaha to a new hobby: craft kombucha.

“I took a vinegar-making workshop at City Sprouts,” Horner said. “They gave us a culture and some apple cider, told us how to maintain it, to agitate the culture and keep it semi-warm. They said to taste it after a week or a week and a half, but I didn’t feel like it was there. I waited two and a half weeks, then when I bottled it, it carbonated. I tasted it and it was just so much better than commercial vinegar you can get at the store. So I started making tonics with it.”

As his process refined and vinegar brewing turned into batches of booch, Horner realized he was on the verge of something more than a healthy habit.

Being intimately aware of what a criminal history can do to your prospects for employment, Horner wanted to greet those coming out of a dark time with an opportunity to start fresh. As his success grew with his business, Fermented Felon, he decided to apply the capital and momentum he’d created toward something bigger. “I wanted to start a business that focused on helping felons start businesses,” he said.

“Since beginning production in 2020, I’ve had the opportunity to mentor several entrepreneurs through the

March 2023 22 Dish
S TORY And pHOTOS BY Sara Locke Owner TOny HOrner prOudly represenTed FermenTed FelOn aT THe 2022 rev piTcH cOmpeTiTiOn, winning a casH prize TOward His cause. Fully sTOcked aT yOur lOcal Hy-vee HealTHmarkeT.

Rise Business Academy. I’ve supported individuals that are awaiting release, helping them get better employment, fair housing, and reunite with their families.“

I might be a bit of a sucker for a human-interest story, and Horner’s determination and integrity were enough of a draw that I would drink a kale smoothie if it meant supporting his cause. And you know how I feel about kale. But I’ve been a fan of kombucha since I was just a sprout myself, and on the prowl for a brand that didn’t hide the hard-to-perfect flavor profile behind a ton of added sugars. Sugars that negate the purpose of drinking the fermented tea in the first place.

Horner’s unique blends are bright and flavorful, without even a hint of Red 40. Delicately carbonated, the drink focuses on the fruit, and not creating a loud sensory experience to dis-

tract you from the good you’re doing your body. You’ll find Lavender, Peach, Tart Cherry Cola, Blueberry, Pear, Ginger-Turmeric, Root Beer, and new Raspberry flavors at dozens of establishments around Omaha, Lincoln and Council Bluffs. Check your nearest Hy-Vee HealthMarket cooler, or visit for a current list of locations.

It’s enough to have created a successful business, a delicious drink, a fun catchphrase, a body-balancing bottle of booch. It was enough to have just pulled himself off of the wrong path. But Horner continues nurturing that enoughness, feeding what’s good, and watching our community thrive for his efforts.

Follow and support Horner’s work on Instagram @FermentedFelon and @KombuchaWithACause

Thanks Omaha for voting us BEST


Proud pioneers of the fermenter-to-table movement.

It would be wrong to say the freshest beer is automatically the best beer. But the best beer almost always tastes its best when it is, in marketing speak, at the peak of freshness. And it’s hard to get any fresher than beer brewed thirty feet away from your table. And it’s doubly hard to get any better than when that table is here at Upstream. But we suspect you already knew that.

March 2023 23 Dish
Celebrating Over 30 Years Of Making Ice Cream Th e Old Fashioned Way Two Omaha Locations: Old Market Downtown • 1120 Jackston 402.341.5827 Benson 6023 Maple 402.551.4420 Home of America’s Most Premium Ice Cream Ted & Wally’s Ultra-Premium 20% Butterfat Made from Scratch with Rock Salt & Ice

Rapper, Rocker Shines a Light in the ‘Dark’

Snake Lucci ReLeaSeS ‘DaRk SeSSiOnS’ aLbumS With mORe tO FOLLOW

Omaha hip-hop and rock artist Snake Lucci was the first artist I had in mind when I took over the Backbeat column for The Reader. He can be seen at the record store frequently, dropping off CDs and putting up posters, fliers and stickers. His enthusiasm and old-school promotional drive are noticeable, and I wanted to talk with an artist who is out there on the pavement trying to make things work. It was a surprise to learn he is many years and albums deep into his career, appears in YouTube music videos with hundreds of thousands of streams, and has been working with Omaha breakout hip-hop artist King Iso since Day One. He had been putting in the work long before I noticed him.

Snake Lucci is in the middle of releasing a series of albums, two of which can be streamed or purchased physically. Those are “The Dark Sessions” and “Darker Sessions.” The third in the series, “The Darkest Sessions,” will be out soon. Snake Lucci is also launching a line of skate clothing and dropping a video this spring for his rock song “Parasite.” You can catch him live March 19 at Beach House, performing with Poundgame Addison.

Over coffee, Snake Lucci talked about his current project, his movement to mixing his love of rock music with hip hop, that ground game and his career. He explained how he got started rapping.

“One time, it was King Iso’s sister’s birthday, and we had a freestyle battle. One of her friends that came, I was battling him and lost the battle and I told myself, ‘You know

what, I am going to write a song and have it ready in case this ever happens again.’ From there I kept writing.”

That was 2004. From there, he went on to work with other area artists and form the Snakehouse record label with King Iso. Flash forward to 2023.

Right now I am the promoter, CEO, artist, marketer, a little bit of everything. I am part director when I am doing music videos. I am hands on behind the scenes for my stuff. We record at Strange Music for King Iso’s stuff. We got Taebo The Truth and King Kash, and we do tracks with each other and tours, and kind of just killing shit.

“I kind of wanted to push it the old-school style, not just social media,” he said of his ground-game approach to promotion. “Back in the day you would see fliers everywhere, and now you do not see them because of social media. I wanted to do both. I still go in the record store. A lot of people think hard

copies are dead. They are not. Those actually sell more than anything. It isn’t even about sales. I just want to get it out there and raise awareness of the music.”

That music has been evolving, and the hip-hop artist is a longtime fan of rock music, which he has incorporated more of into his repertoire. “For me right now, I started out with rap and now I am mixing rock and almost trying to start a new genre at this point,” he said. “I listen to a little more rock than rap right now. I have always wanted to merge it. And since the beginning, with King Iso, we always incorporated rock, but we never merged it that much. We would just put a guitar in a song or something.

“Now I just kind of changed the approach and started with

March 2023 24 BackBeat
Omaha rapper, rOcker Snake Lucci ha S a grOundgame apprOach tO prOmOtiOn. Omaha’S

the instruments and then the vocals and then maybe put part of the beat to it,” he said. “Just a different process. I am paying attention to what kind of rock I like to listen to. What kind of guitars do I like. Instead of going to the generic guitars that everyone goes to, that sounds the same. I am going, ‘I like this kind of guitar with this kind of drum.’ Now I am finding the sound and keeping in one lane.”

Snake Lucci mentions Big L, Jay-Z, Big Pun and more when talking about hip-hop artists who influence him. He gets more animated when he is asked about rock music, and he states he is into Bay Area thrasher rock, screamo, punk, some Nu Metal and grunge. “Real grunge,” he said, “not the artificial shit.” He namechecks the Deftones, “old” Metallica, Alice In Chains, Sys-

tem of a Down and Japanese rock as favorites. If you just listen to songs such as “Parasite” and “Drowning” off the latest project “My Darker Sessions,” you may not realize Snake Lucci does hip-hop as well.

On “Parasite,” hard-rock blast beats mix with hiphop beats and heavy guitar over melodic verses and choruses.


o Poundgame Addison with Snake Lucci

o Sunday, March 19, Beach House

“I had my first full rock song,” he said, “which is ‘Parasite.’ I am presenting more elements of rock instead of just one guitar on a beat. I put more of my rock vocals on there that I have never used before. I always wanted to do a rock

album, but never did. I figured now is the time. The concept behind the song is fake friendships, fake friends, things you deal with climbing up in the industry and relationships. Going through the same door, racing through the same door. Parasites all together. People leaching onto other people.”

o Tickets $10 at

He explains the concept for the video this way: “So I flipped the song for the video where it’s kind of like a love story, almost. Me talking to this girl, but we don’t know if the other one is bullshitting and at the same time we are

having fun. We are walking though the record store, buying a record and I take her number down, but at the end of the day, I don’t know if this is a player.”

Up next is a new single for a song called “Archery” that Snake Lucci planned to drop in late February. He will also work on an 11-song album called “Darkest Sessions” produced by King Iso. Soon Snakehouse Apparel and Savage Dreams skate clothing wear will be available online.

“I have been skating for a while,” he said. “It started out like when I was in trouble as a kid and on house arrest. I could only stay within a certain amount of feet from the house. So, I would practice tricks and ride in the area, and I got really good at it. So, I stuck with it.”

March 2023 25 BackBeat April 19−30, 2023 Orpheum Theater Get tickets now! 402.345.0606

The Inaugural Ryans®

FinaLLy, an award CereMony you ShouLd Care aBout

No apologies to the oscars: FiNdiNg great thiNgs iN good movies is easy. FiNdiNg great thiNgs iN crappy movies? that’s what the ryaNs are all about. still from “Don’t Worry Darling”

Somewhere between when the Razzies nominated a child (Ryan Kiera Armstrong, “Firestarter”) for ridicule and when the Oscars once again forgot Black people exist, an idea occurred to me. What if there were awards that weren’t terrible? It’s never been done before, but hear me out …

In this cynical, jaded era, what if some brave soul were to take movies that have received terrible reviews and isolate legitimately wonderful things about them? I have long said I truly love the idea that every piece of art, no matter how objectively awful, is beloved by someone somewhere. What if we had a warm, fuzzy award that celebrated the shiniest of turds? I give you: The Ryans!

The criteria are simple: The winners will be selected from films with overwhelmingly negative reviews and must be legitimately good things. Obviously, there can’t be a Best Picture, on account of everyone agreeing the movies are, in fact, quite bad. Also, gendered awards are lame.

We’ll do a Big Three: Best Supporting Performance, Best Lead Performance and Best Moment. Winners get absolutely nothing, and this can become an annual thing with more categories if anyone but me cares about it. It’s an honor to be nominating, so let’s get to it!

Best Supporting Performance

The winner is … Pierce Brosnan for “Black Adam.”

Wearing several costumes that would have reduced a lesser performer to a laughingstock, Brosnan brought a sincerity and pathos to a wholly ridiculous character in a near-universally loathed film. Nobody would have blamed

him for half-assing it, for taking the cash spewing from the superhero pinata and running. He very much did not.

Without any context for his character, he built a whole backstory out of grimacing glances and line delivery. His Dr. Fate could have easily been a one-note Dr. Strange riff, but the character became a melancholic lament. Wanting more of any part of “Black Adam” seems insane. I would watch a Dr. Fate movie or TV show this very moment. Well done, good sir.

Best Lead Performance

The winner is, and always will be, Florence F’n Pugh for “Don’t Worry Darling.”

Not for one moment does Pugh let her foot off the gas. Channeling “The Yellow Wallpaper” from her very soul, she made me question whether the movie was actually good. It very much wasn’t in any way. But her force of will made me believe it could have been.

I think about the repellant stories of dude actors who “go method” whenever the seemingly wildly pleasant Pugh drops a performance like this. Opposite Harry Styles, who has as much business acting as he does taking Beyonce’s Grammy, Pugh was somehow convincing. She is a singular talent who

should be drowning in Oscars. But at least she has a Ryan now.

Best Moment

The winner is Matt Smith dancing in “Morbius.”

Please understand how much joy this brought me. In a film as joyless and painful a slog as possible, with two hours of my life filled by … so much Jared Leto, Smith doing a goofy underpants dance was something I will never forget.

This is not a silly award here. This is very real. I have come to appreciate laughing, really laughing, in public for the rarity it is. I guffawed at this. I couldn’t wait to tell others about it. In a time when everything, every single thing in life, feels burdened with purpose and conflict, with division and anger, appreciating something truly just goofy can feel like an oasis. We forget how silly the things we do are. This was a reminder.

This is but the start, my friends. The Ryans could return and be more robust, with scores more categories and loads of honorees who receive no tangible honor. Should you wish it, we can take a moment each year, look at things that suck, and make something happy out of something crappy. Just lemme know. You know where to find me.

Got an idea for a Ryan?

Tell him @thereaderfilm

March 2023 26 FILM
March 2023 27

Hot and Streaming: TV Roundup



Winter months are for television. So are spring months. And summer. Seriously, have you seen TVs lately? They’re almost as big as a Dodge Street pothole and have picture quality sharper than any of my headline puns.

Harrison Ford is doing TV now. That means two things:

(1) TV is officially movies now and (2) the FAA can let the air traffic controller dedicated to keeping eyes on Harry F at all times finally take a nap. Anyway, point is that January and February are trash months for new movies, and that’s when I catch up on TV. Here’s a whistlestop tour of recent stuff I streamed, and you should (or shouldn’t) too.

“Willow” (Disney+)

The cool thing about every studio launching a streaming service without thinking about the long-term financial implications is that pretty much everybody gets a show that leads to the thought: “Was this literally made only for me?” “Willow” was for me and maybe nobody else.

Set 17 years after the events of the original film, the show follows the titular sorcerer (Warwick Davis) as he parades a group of horny teens on a “quest” to find another horny teen. They fight PG-13 versions of the demons from “Hellraiser.” There’s a cameo that really gleamed my cube. Each end-credit sequence starts with a super weird needle drop that includes a cover of “black Hole Sun” and the original “Money for Nothing.”

It is all so dumb. It is so much fun. It is unexpectedly lovely to look at. It is my happy place.

Grade = A

“Last of Us” (HBO)

you probably haven’t heard of this sleeper hit that dares to ask “What if ‘The Walking Dead’ was even just half as good as people once thought?” Sir Pedro Pascal, the lord king of nerd stream-

ing entertainment, and bella Ramsey wade through a fungal apocalypse, breaking 0% new ground 100% successfully.

Everyone lost butts at how great the third episode was. This is because it was loseyour-butt worthy. Few postapocalyptic fables find the right focus, which is not on how people survive but why. “Station Eleven” remains the king of that particular genre, but “Last of Us” absolutely “gets it.” Oh, and kudos to HbO for finding a way, over and over again, to provide appointment television that allows us to have a shared conversation. That conversation currently has more Linda Ronstadt than expected.

bellybutton. A few “very special episodes” over the first two years were groan-inducing eye rollers, which sounds like Willy Wonka’s least successful candy.

Still, the supporting cast pops, and the environment the show explores is rife for clever insights. It occupies a weird nether region between “Silicon Valley” and “big bang Theory.” Like a game of “Operation,” there is a wildly unpleasant shock when it touches the boundaries of either. I’ve still watched all 30 episodes though.

A “Mythic Quest” (apple TV+)

Grade =

This comedy series about video game creators and producers is at its best when it doesn’t fool itself into believing it is prestige television. Through three seasons, it has stayed surprisingly watchable. The surprise is mostly that it continues to just barely avoid the event horizon of its own

Grade = B“The Ark” (Syfy/Peacock)

I watched 15 seasons of “Supernatural.” So don’t tell me I can’t stomach mediocre-to-bad acting in a campy genre show. “The Ark” has maybe the worst pilot episode that doesn’t feature the words “Chuck Lorre.” Every actor is miscast, and every note is sour in a show that makes every canceled CW show feel like “The Wire.” Avoid, unless you enjoy watching a show about stranded interplanetary

March 2023 28 FILM

colonists and rooting for space to win.

Grade = F“Poker Face” (Peacock)

Every review, including this one, has pointed out that this is basically just a Natasha Lyonne-led reboot of “Columbo.” If you don’t care about “Columbo,” I’m sorry COVID meant you couldn’t have prom. For those of us who have been hungering for a smarmy, charismatic wiseass to explain why everyone is stupid and wrong, what a delight this is.

Writer/director Rian Johnson came up with a simple gimmick: Lyonne’s character can tell when anyone’s lying. I suppose Benoit Blanc can do that too, but he has a silly accent, whereas Lyonne smokes a billion cigarettes. It’s basically “Knives Out” lite on a weekly basis, with impossibly goofy murders, a cavalcade of guest stars, and no catchphrase. Yet …

Grade = A-

“That 90s Show” (Netflix)

Yes, I watched the whole thing. No, I am not proud of myself. Nobody in the new cast has Topher Grace-levels of talent. They are sub-Topher. That’s not an amount of grace anyone should feel comfortable with. Debra Jo Rupp remains a comedy angel though. “That 90s Show” is perfectly designed for “That 2020s Thing” you put on in the background while looking at your phone the whole time.

Grade = C-


The other day, I got excited about the fact that they are restricting parking near where I live to only one side of the street. That didn’t make me feel as old as the fact that the Omaha Film Festival has been happening for 18 years. Consider every sound of cosmic horror my knees now make a round of applause for this spectacular endeavor. From March 7-12, you can head to Aksarben Cinema (acxcinemas. com/aksarben-cinema) at 2110 S 67th St. to roll around in all sorts of festival goodness. This includes but is not limited to local short flicks, animated movies, documentaries, and a screenplay contest. Head to omahafilmfestival. com for all the details necessary and plan on spending a fantastic week watching the kind of cinema that wouldn’t otherwise be available to us humble Omahans. Here’s to 18 more years, during which I’m sure I’ll learn to love porridge and distrust whatever we will be calling humans born in the 2020s.

When it comes to James Woods, 4K is one K more than he’s been supporting lately. However, a 4K restoration of David Cronenberg’s director’s cut of “Videodrome” has arrived, and Alamo Drafthouse is getting weird with it. On Saturday, March 11, at 10 p.m., you can watch this bonkers gem that features Rick Baker special effects and Debby Harry acting. Loaded with social commentary before Woods decided that “woke-ism is a virus,” this is a genuinely insane experience that deserves all the Ks possible. Tickets are available at the-late-show-videodrome. Be there or you’ll have to drome your video yourself.

I stumbled across a potentially cool activity on

the interwebs. Although I am confident nobody wants to be in a column that includes James Woods and “Videodrome,” here goes: The McGuigan Arts Academy has a Spring Break Camp on Filmmaking ( that will be held March 13-17 and April 3-7 for students ages 8 years and older. Led by Kimberly Faith Hickman and Matthew Hjersman Everson, the course aims to teach insights into the writing and production of films that apparently culminates with a screening of a film they make at a reception in Countryside Village. The course is $300 with multichild discounts for students in the same household. I can promise you two things: First, if this had been available when I was a child, I would have acquired $300 through whatever means necessary and possible for a youth. Second, had I attended, I would have directed at least one of the 12 “Fast and Furious” movies. Use that knowledge to make the right decisions for your child. A bit early, but you can never start thinking about plants too soon. On Tuesday, April 18, at

6 p.m., Film Streams is showing “Little Shop of Horrors” at the Ruth Sokolof Theater ( This is in collaboration with the Omaha Community Playhouse, which is running its production of the musical from April 14-May 7. There will be a post-screening discussion, and you can even see Audrey II in person. I remember the first time I saw this movie. I went in blind, knowing only the title. I don’t know what I expected, but I did not expect a Rick Moranis musical about a talking plant. A reminder: Sometimes we get what we never knew we always wanted. Feed your brain and your heart this spring.

Cutting Room provides breaking local and national movie news … complete with added sarcasm. Send any relevant information to film@

Check out Ryan on KVNO 90.7 on Wednesdays and follow him on Twitter @ thereaderfilm.

March 2023 29 FILM
SOmehOW, The OFF iS TuRNiNg 18. Keep iT aWay FROm LeONaRdO diCapRiO, buT dON’ T STay aWay FROm iT yOuRSeLF. IMAGE: ThE posTEr froM ThE oMAhA fIlM fEsTIvAl


1. Air marshal’s org.

4. Hilarity, on the Interwebs

8. West ___ (Long Island locale)

13. “Believe” singer

14. Opera showstopper

15. See 22-Across

16. Flag position in remembrance

18. Go inside

19. Holiday visitor, maybe

20. “Along with all the rest” abbr.

22. With 15-Across, “A Change Is Gonna Come” singer

23. Robbie who was Cousin Oliver on “The Brady Bunch”

26. “Famous Potatoes” state

28. Meat and mushroom dish originally made with a mustard and sour cream sauce

33. Notable time division

34. Appear

35. Column style simpler than ionic

37. Bits of work

39. Prepares, as kiwifruit

42. Prefix before “plasmosis”

43. Ancient artifact

45. First-timer, slangily

47. Yes, in France

48. German-born NBA player who appeared


Failing to see the signiFicance here —

multiple times on “Parks & Recreation”

52. “You ___ not pass!”

53. Gang leader?

54. Mo. for most of Sagittarius

56. Promotional bit

58. Skewered dish

62. Knock for ___

64. 1986 Fabulous Thunderbirds song (or the album it was on)

67. Neutral brownish color

68. Singer Fitzgerald

69. Low quartet?

70. Adjust to fit

71. Archetype for one of “The Odd Couple”

72. Miss Piggy, for one


1. “Easier said ___ done”

2. Put on the marketplace

3. Pound sound

4. Back muscle, in the gym

5. “Kia ___” (Maori greeting)

6. Subject of many toasts

7. Rubenesque

8. Country with fjords

9. “Sanford and ___”

10. What uncramped areas have

11. Furniture store with meatballs

12. Salon do

13. Sox home, on scoreboards

17. Reuben ingredient

AnsweRs in next month’s issue oR online At

38. “Revenge of the ___” (“Star Wars” subtitle)

40. Key’s partner

41. “Last Night in ___” (2021 film)

44. Sound-activated infomercial gadget

46. Out of money

49. Joint with a 90-degree bend

50. Grade school orchestra section

51. Justice Kagan and forward Delle Donne, for two

54. Numbers to be crunched

55. Airline with Hebrew letters in the logo

57. Beach bird

59. Osso ___ (Italian dish)

60. Not too many

61. Some partners, for short

63. Unlock, in poetry

21. Org. recommending regular checkups

24. Instruction part

25. Word after family or phone

27. Owl sound

28. Pub pour

29. Miscalculated

30. Earner of 21 merit badges

31. “Good ___” (Gaiman/Pratchett novel)

32. Repair

36. Salon do

65. “Low” rapper ___ Rida

66. Beatles adjective


AnsweR to l A st month’s “23 And me”

March 2023 30 CROSSWORD
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 H O F F W A N T M O S E S A L O E A R C H A S T R O J E R R Y R I C E S C O O B V A N W A K A N D A A S T O N A A H S R E E D G E O R G E M C O H A N S A X R I O I O N S M I C H A E L J O R D A N S C A M Y O U G A B J O H N T U R T U R R O I S A O B E E R O S A K A C A L L N O W A R E I N D I E J I M C A R R E Y E D E N S O M I T I O W A R I N G S B A R S D E E P


March 2023 31
Garry Trudeau Jeffrey KoTerba Jen SorenSen

Blues Rock ‘n’ Roots

CLuBs ARe JumpiNg AND summeR FestivAL DAtes ARe HeRe

The Blues Society of Omaha celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The Society’s March concert series starts with Eddie Turner at Philly Sports Bar on Thursday, March 2, 6-9 p.m. Guitar Player magazine says “Turner’s otherworldly, atmospheric guitar style” offers “a modern take on a classic genre.” Friday, March 3, 5:30-8:30 p.m., popular guitar star Nick Schnebelen and his band take the stage at The B. Bar.

Alligator Records rockin’ blues guitarist Jarekus Singleton plugs in at The Strut on Thursday, March 9, 6-9 p.m. Wednesday, March 15, 8 p.m., at the Waiting Room, the BSO teams up with One Percent Productions to present another Alligator recording artist, Tinsley Ellis, on his Acoustic Songs & Stories tour.

Memphis-based Tony Holiday performs at The Jewell on Thursday, March 23, 6-9 p.m.

Saturday, March 25, there is a special 4-7 p.m. show from Danielle Nicole with the Brandon Miller Band at Stocks n Bonds. Based in KC, this powerhouse vocalist is a Grammy nominee and a multiple Blues Music Award winner.

Thursday, April 6, 6-9 p.m., phenomenal Chicago slide guitarist Joanna Connor is scheduled at The Waiting Room. Visit for more info. Find a curated schedule of these shows and other area roots music events at

Zoo Bar Blues

Lincoln’s historic blues club, The Zoo Bar, present a fine ros-

ter of shows in March, starting with Arkansauce on Thursday, March 2, 6-9 p.m. The Arkansas band is self-described as “bending the rules and blurring the lines” between American roots genres. Friday, March 3, 5-7 p.m., Austin’s Nik Parr & The Selfless Lovers take the stage. Bandleader Parr is a sax and keyboard player whose band is rising on the Austin music scene and is becoming a favorite of Zoo audiences.

Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal play Saturday, March 4, 5 p.m. The band is fresh from winning an OEAA in January for Best Soul. In January they also took home the best self-produced CD award from the Blues Foundation, after the recording was submitted by the BSO. The award is decided by a panel of judges, and given as part of the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. See for details.

Other highlights from the March schedule include Reverend Horton Heat with Scott H. Biram on Wednesday, March 8, 6-9 p.m. Guitar star Jarekus Singleton plays Friday, March 10, 5 p.m.

Evan Bartels, a Nebraskan who’s been working in Nashville, returns for a show Tuesday, March 21, 6-9 p.m.

Florida pedal steel guitarist Roosevelt Collier, who is a player in the “sacred steel” tradition, plays Monday, March 27, 6-9 p.m. Collier learned and performed as part of the acclaimed Lee Boys and is often a featured player with notable artists.

Chicago guitarist/vocalist Ivy Ford is scheduled for Friday, March 31, 9 p.m. Find updates at and facebook. com/zoobarblues

Kris Lager Conduit

Kris Lager serves up another multi-artist rock ‘n’ roll showcase with his Conduit Live series Thursday, March 9, at the Benson Theatre. Watch for details and tickets at and

Festival Dates

Playing with Fire brings a new season of free blues shows to Turner Park at Midtown Crossing this summer. Mark your calendar for the shows happening Friday and Saturday, July 14-15 and Aug. 11-12.

The Blues Society of Omaha continues to collaborate with Héctor Anchondo on developing his original concept for In the Market for Blues. The multi-venue, multi-band festival takes place in the Old Market, Capitol District and select downtown venues. This year’s date is Saturday, Aug. 5. Watch the BSO’s Facebook page for updates on concert sites and performers.

Hot Notes

Tickets are on sale for ZZ Top on Wednesday, April 12, 7:30 p.m., at the Orpheum Theatre. See Tickets are also on sale for The Mavericks at Lincoln’s Bourbon Theatre on Wednesday, April 19, 8 p.m. It’s a fantastic chance to see this acclaimed rock and roots band led by outstanding

vocalist Raul Malo in a smaller club environment. For tickets see

The Admiral presents “Garrison Keillor at 80” with Keillor, Heather Masse and Richard Dworsky on Saturday, March 4, 8 pm. This is a seated show with Keillor reprising themes from his NPR radio show “A Prairie Home Companion.” See

The Admiral also presents Flogging Molly on Saturday, March 11, 8 p.m.

Country-folk artist Iris DeMent is scheduled for The Waiting Room on Friday, March 24, 8 p.m.

Ohio roots musician Nicholas Johnson plays Kinkaider Brewing in Omaha on Friday, March 10. Described as “Rust Belt meets Southern roots,” the singer-songwriter has been working with producer Patrick Himes (Ryan Adams, Lilly Hiatt). Johnson stops in Omaha on his way to performances at this year’s SXSW in Austin.

Big Wade & Black Swan Theory host a recurring Wednesday night open mic, 8-11 p.m. at The Jewell in March. See shows for details on the gigs and other club events.

March 2023 32 HOODOO
Grammy nominee Danielle nicole brinGs her powerhouse show to bso presents at stocks n bonDs on saturDay, march 25, 4-7 p.m. Photo: @fountaincityandco.

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Mary ann KrzeMien

July 14, 1943

– January 24, 2023

Mary Ann Krzemien left her indelible imprint on our hearts, our city, state and world. She lived her life in service to people, animals and all of God’s creation. She modeled and taught those values over four decades to thousands of her students at Ryan and St. Joseph’s high schools, plus UNO, the College of Saint Mary and Creighton University. She mentored students and the many neighbor children who visited her.

Mary Ann was an active, 30-year board member for the South Omaha Neighborhood Alliance and South Omaha Environmental Task Force. Her work led to systems that reduced odors, sewer gasses, manure spills, litter and graffiti. Her floral center pieces adorned each table at the yearly dinner. She worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for all.

Walking by Mary Ann’s yard were people living homeless. She learned their names and stories, often driving them to social services. She met people on the streets who were destitute, so she gave them food, help and comfort. All people were of worth to her. More than once she drove home the “Broom Man,” Rev. Livingston Wills, in the rain or cold.

Mary Ann’s compassion extended to the stray dogs and cats she rescued and cared for. She planted her yard in flowers that brightened the neighborhood for all. For years she gave people flower seeds and plants, including at the weekly Bellevue Farmers Market. Pollinators thrived in her ever-colorful, fragrant showplace yard where she was a ray of sunshine.

Many elderly folks benefitted from Mary Ann’s weekly visits, for 10 years volunteering in the Douglas County Health Center and Omaha Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Her smile and cheerful demeanor brought comfort and support to people who had no family or visitors. She advocated for people and our planet in the Legislature, leading to improvements. Mary Ann worked in a senator’s office, wrote letters, rallied neighbors and generated support for these causes.

Additionally, Mary Ann co-founded and ran her own business, Joy Creations Greeting Cards, for 35 years. Her goal was quality Midwest art at an affordable price for all. Her legacy extends around the globe. We were blessed that she gave so much to so many in a life so very well lived. Her joy, compassion and service radiate in the hearts of those who knew her. She was and is a guiding star.

IN MEMORIAM To place in Memoriams, go to

Haters Gonna Hate

PHilly indiE Rock Band GRocER cRiticizEs nEGativE cRiticism

Albini, whose contribution to music history includes recording classic albums from grunge icons The Pixies, Nirvana and PJ Harvey, tweeted a bunch of one-liners about the band responsible for such hits as “Peg” and “Deacon Blues,” including: “Christ the amount of human effort wasted to sound like an SNL band warm up,” and “Music made for the sole purpose of letting the wedding band stretch out a little.”

“What is weird,” Lovier added, “is that people will hate-listen to that album now.”

Early last month, Pitchfork, an online indie music news and reviews website, published a blisteringly negative review of glam-rock album “Rush!” by the Italian band Måneskin. Negative reviews are nothing new for Pitchfork, but this one was particularly biting; its sentiment was neatly summed up in the article’s subhead, in which author Jeremy Larson described the record as “absolutely terrible at every conceivable level.”

You’d think such a record would rate a 0.0 on Pitchfork’s 10-point scale, but somehow the album garnered a 2.0. A rating that low catches people’s attention, and sure enough, the review received “viral lift” on social media by music fans who celebrated Larson’s butchery of an album they likely never would have listened to otherwise. And isn’t that what rock criticism is all about?

Not to Nick Rahn, guitarist/ vocalist of Philadelphia-based indie band Grocer, which is slated to play at Reverb Lounge

on March 19. Rahn headed to Twitter, posting from the band’s account: “Hot take alert: We no longer have a need for negative music reviews when you can listen to anything you want for free and form your own opinion.”

Rahn’s rebuttal continued in the threaded tweet. “I get that it feels good to shit on things you don’t like but is it helpful? Does it have a place on a public forum? With so much music out there isn’t it more useful to single out music you like than to single out music you don’t like? Also can we stop saying that music is ‘good’ or ‘bad’? It’s ok to have an opinion. You don’t need to be an authority on the objective quality of something just because it doesn’t register as ‘cool’ for you.”

Rahn’s reaction came a day after a different critical brouhaha boiled over on Twitter, this time featuring legendary post-punk recording engineer Steve Albini lambasting (of all things) ‘70s yacht rock supergroup Steely Dan.

As both a longtime Steely Dan fan and long-time Albini fan, this produced a chuckle. Others were not so amused, as online publications including Pitchfork “amplified” Albini’s rant, resulting in much venting of spleen on social media. Grocer reacted to this on Twitter, too: “If we are going to get upset every time an old guy has an opinion on Steely Dan there is no hope for us to survive in this world.” Huzzah!

Grocer bandmates, drummer/vocalist Cody Nelson and bassist/vocalist Danielle Lovier, said people got pissed about Rahn’s Pitchfork tweets. “They reacted angrily,” Rahn said via a phone interview.

“A lot of people took the comments to say that we don’t want to be criticized,” Nelson said. “When a multimillion-dollar company owned by Conte Nast decides to heat up conversation for a day, it’s going to be lame. The review’s author should have said he hates (the album) on Twitter. For Pitchfork, (the review) is being mean for no reason. There was a period of time when a Pitchfork review could stop careers from thriving. These days it doesn’t matter.”

Lovier is right. I listened to the Måneskin album only because of its viral negative review and 2.0 rating. I never would have if Pitchfork rated it between 5.0 and 8.0. And while Rahn is correct that people can find out for themselves if an album is good or bad now that music is so freely available, that availability doesn’t come with the one valuable thing we all need to listen to new music — time.

Instead of hate-listening to the latest Måneskin album, Grocer would prefer you listen to their new album, “Scatter Plot,” released March 3 on Philly label Grind Select. Having listened to both, I can attest your time will be better spent.

And you can bet that, despite the criticism of Pitchfork, Grocer would love the so-called “bible of Indie music” to review their album.

“We would love them to pan us,” Nelson said. “And let’s face it, it’s better for (Pitchfork) to attack a band no one’s heard of than, say, Greta Van Fleet.”

Grocer performs at Reverb Lounge on March 19 with Bad Self Portraits and Estrogen Projection. Showtime is 8 p.m., tickets are $10. For more information, go to www.

Over The edge is a mOnThly cOlumn by reader seniOr cOnTribuTing wriTer Tim mcmahan fOcused On culTure, sOcieT y, music, The media and The arTs. email Tim aT Tim.mcmahan@gmail.cOm

March 2023 35 OVER THE EDGE
Grocer, no fan of Pitchfork’s neGative reviews, Plays the reverb lounGe on March 19.