Dawaune Hayes, BA’16, counts himself among the blessed after finding a creative way to serve the predominantly African American population of North Omaha where he grew up. As one of the founders of NOISE, a young multimedia company that seeks to build civic awareness and involvement in one of the city’s most historic and culturally resonant areas, Hayes says his goal is big.
“I hope that NOISE will disrupt and inform the minds of the people so that they feel able to change the world for the better,” he says.
NOISE, which is the acronym for North Omaha Information Support Everyone, emerged in 2018 after an “information ecosystem assessment” conducted in 2017 identified the area’s communication needs and, courtesy of a grant from the Weitz Family Foundation, was able to put its recommendations into action. Working in partnership with other community organizations, NOISE seeks to bridge an information gap within North Omaha through the use of web and social media while supporting that effort with radio, print, SMS alerts and events.
“I was working as a communications manager at the Union for Contemporary Art, and was a part of the original set of interviews during the assessment,” he says. “When the recommendations and suggestions were published, I left my job at the Union and we formed NOISE.
“Our goal is to utilize modern-day journalism techniques and technologies to connect with the people and the community and create a platform rather than waiting for a journalist from the outside to come in and tell our stories for us.”
On April 20, 2018, Hayes, who graduated from Creighton University in 2016 with a degree in journalism and public relations, gave a TEDx Talk at the Mike and Josie Harper Center for TEDxCreightonU.
Titled “Make Noise Now,” his talk illuminated how North Omaha’s largely African American demographic emerged from policies of redlining that isolated the area and made economic development and housing progress difficult to achieve.
Telling that story, and the many substories within it, is a big part of the mission of NOISE, Hayes said, because information and storytelling are key to helping people realize their full personhoods. That, Hayes says, is a message he relayed during his 2018 Creighton TEDx Talk.
“Information can disrupt injustice,” he told his Creighton audience. “We all share in the human experience, yet we all have unique stories to tell. When we reveal our perspectives in an accessible way, we encourage empathy compassion and action.”
It is surprising how little the often painful story of North Omaha is understood, Hayes said, even among those who grow up in the area.
“Much of what I talked about in that TEDx Talk, especially segregation in Omaha, was something I didn’t really come to know until after I left Creighton,” he says. “Which really surprised me, because Creighton is involved in a lot of things being as it is kind of the dividing line between North Omaha and downtown.”
“But I am able to say now that I acquired a degree in journalism, went into my community and learned about our history in a deep way, and now I’m able to say, ‘Here’s something we can do about it.’ That was really what triggered the TEDx talk.
“I don’t want to just know about the past to get upset about it and tell you you’re wrong, I also want to say here’s what we are doing, and here are the tools of knowledge at your disposal.”