When Greg Daake set out a few years ago to design a new Omaha flag, he had Chicago’s flag in mind.
It was everywhere, he said. The symbol could be seen on shirts, buildings, even buses, representing the civic pride residents had in their city.
When Daake, the owner of a local brand agency, officially launched the Omaha Flag Project in June, he staked his flag to a goal beyond the civic pride he originally had hoped to symbolize.
“Watching the community respond to COVID-19 and engage in an essential conversation about inequality has been inspiring and affirming,” Daake said. “We should be proud of our city while also acknowledging how far we have to go. To do that, we need to unite as a community. We need to help those in need, and we need to be rallied under the same flag.”
The project has flown high in its first month, with a growing social media presence and yard signs popping up in central Omaha. The campaign also has raised more than $12,000 for charity.
All profits from merchandise sold and donations from the community will be donated to local nonprofits and charities, Daake said. Omaha Metro Health Care Coalition will be the first beneficiary when Daake hands off a $12,543 donation at 6 p.m. Monday at the Omaha Flag Project’s pop-up event in Memorial Park.
“One of our big objectives is to sell 100,000 shirts, which would equate to $1 million to a nonprofit, so that’s like a big, audacious goal of ours,” Daake said.
Daake’s design is fairly simple, with three horizontal stripes of light blue, yellow and dark blue, and a white circle in the middle.
The dark blue band at the bottom represents the Missouri and Platte Rivers. Daake notes that the city’s name is an Omaha Native American word for “upstream people.”
In the center of the design, the circular arch represents Omaha’s place in the middle of the country and the “O” a gateway to “The Good Life,” the sun crossing the horizon or a bright harvest moon, Daake said.
The middle, yellow stripe is meant to be a visual representation of the city’s warmth and a tribute to its reputation as one of the friendliest, most accommodating cities in the world.
At the top of the flag, the light blue stripe represents the sky and is a color traditionally known to represent virtues such as loyalty, integrity, mindfulness and calm.
For now, Daake’s flag isn’t officially recognized by the city. The idea was briefly brought to the City Council a few years ago, he said, but it was tabled.
“We’ve approached the Mayor’s Office a few times, but they have their hands full with lots of things, so we decided to just go for it and launch it, do a grassroots thing,” Daake said.
A representative from the Mayor’s Office said an Omaha City Council resolution would be needed to make the flag the city’s official banner, just as a resolution passed in 1958 was needed to adopt Omaha’s current, and so far only, official flag.
Omaha’s current flag was designed by two Girl Scout troops in 1958.
According to a World-Herald article from that year, after pointing out the lack of an official flag to Mayor Johnny Rosenblatt, the Girl Scouts received the go-ahead to create a design to represent the city.
In the end, designs from two Girl Scout troops were combined to create Omaha’s flag of the past 62 years.
It depicts the sun symbol of the Omaha Tribe, the first to inhabit the land that would later become Omaha. Superimposed on the symbol is a covered wagon pulled by oxen, which the article said is a tribute to pioneers who settled in Omaha.
Daake isn’t worried about his flag replacing Omaha’s current banner.
“Whether or not it gets enacted as a civic flag, maybe it becomes the people’s flag,” he said. “Some sort of universal, unifying symbol that people could gravitate towards, that’s optimistic, that has the proper symbolism in it, that’s going to be timeless for a while.
“Omaha’s visual identity has always felt very segmented. We cede our identities to the parts of town we live in or the sports teams we cheer for,” Daake said. “We need a flag that stitches us together at every corner. People who visit here should be able to see that and want to be a part of it. That’s always been the spirit of the project.”