Kelly: A persevering Omaha mother has a dream for peace -
Published Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 4:55 pm
Kelly: A persevering Omaha mother has a dream for peace

Anna Green of Omaha, who attended this summer's 50th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech, has a dream of her own.

Her dream is to rally women to stop violence on the streets and to encourage the young that “somebody cares for them.”

She dreams of “a thousand ladies in red,” of all races, neighborhoods and religious denominations, marching and praying for an end to violence in Omaha.

The 77-year-old said she plans to write to houses of worship throughout the Omaha area to encourage a united front.

The mother of six believes not only in the power of prayer but also in the strength of unity.

As a young woman, she said, she flew from Omaha to her native Alabama in 1965 to hear the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speak and to walk in the historic voting rights march between Selma and Montgomery.

“I was afraid, but I still had faith in God,” she said. “I knew God would protect us. Prayer changes things.”

Two months ago, she flew by herself to hear President Barack Obama and others speak at the commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington and of King's most famous speech.

As an African-American, she said, she has seen much progress during her lifetime. But she is discouraged by violence.

“My sister in Alabama says they have the same problem, blacks killing blacks,” Green said. “It's all the races, but more in our race. It's a shame, the way they are killing each other. It's not safe for anybody.”

She believes that prayer and a gathering of women, who bear and nurture the young, would have a great impact.

The logistics of such an effort might be imposing, but she said she has spoken to others and prayed about it, “and I've never had a prayer that's gone unanswered.”

Anna grew up in Andalusia, Ala., and came to Omaha with her husband, Lehman Benson Jr., who served at Offutt Air Force Base. The children were raised in Omaha and elsewhere, including three years in Berlin.

The couple, who divorced after 15 years of marriage, had six children.

The oldest, Folanzo, drowned at 21 in California when caught in an undertow. He had just re-enlisted in the Navy and was on an outing with his brother, Bernard.

“It was a tragic event,” said Bernard Benson, now retired after 25 years as a state prison counselor in California. “I give my mother a lot of credit for keeping things together through difficult times.

“When everybody was going through the trauma and pain, she is the one who organized the military funeral in Omaha. Even through the divorce, she managed to focus the family on what was important.”

The children always got good grades, he said, recalling that his mother augmented his classroom education by taking him to the Douglas County Courthouse to listen to trials.

Her ex-husband died in 2011. Their oldest, Lehman Benson III, holds a Ph.D. in psychology and is an associate professor at the University of Arizona.

The three daughters live in the Virginia Beach, Va., area, which their mother often visits.

As a Navy petty officer in 1994, Antoniette Benson Shuler became one of the first women assigned to a combat ship after Congress overturned the ban on women serving on such ships. A graduate of Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, she served on the USS Eisenhower.

Now an insurance agent, she said her mother is a positive force.

OWH Columnists
Columnists Michael Kelly, Erin Grace and Matthew Hansen write about people, places and events around Omaha. Read more of their work here.

“She always encouraged us to do our best at all times, no matter what,” Antoniette said. “She is very sweet and has a big heart.”

The other daughters are Dr. Regina Moore, a nurse, and Tanya Benson-Jones, a cosmetologist.

Dr. Michael Morrison, an Omaha orthopedic surgeon, said he admires Anna not only because she is kind and charming but also mainly for devoting her life to her children.

“She laid the foundation and groundwork to stimulate them to become educated and advance to high levels,” he said. “She is from that generation that did anything possible for their children to advance.”

Lillian Rogers, a longtime Omaha friend, said Anna is an excellent cook, skilled at arts and crafts and “very creative and artistic.”

Gathering women in prayer to march against violence, Rogers said, “would be a blessing to the city.”

When Anna Green visited Washington in August, she met with another accomplished relative — first cousin Gail Harris, a retired Navy captain and author of “A Woman's War: The Professional and Personal Journey of the Navy's First African American Female Intelligence Officer.”

Harris, raised in Newark, N.J., is a Gulf War veteran who spent extensive time in the Middle East. She spent 1996-99 as deputy commander of the Joint Intelligence Center at U.S. Strategic Command headquarters at Offutt and now serves as a consultant, adviser and writer.

Though two decades younger than her Omaha cousin, she said they know each other well because their mothers were sisters.

“Anna is a force of nature,” Harris said. “She has a fantastic family, and they have all done fabulously well. She travels all over and never lets anything get her down.”

Violence bothers her greatly, though, and she wants to unite women in prayer.

Contact the writer: Michael Kelly    |   402-444-1000

Mike writes three columns a week on a variety of topics.

Omahan arrested on 4th offense DUI
Regency area without power for 2 1/2 hours Sunday night
Driver seriously injured in crash into semi
Firefighters put out industrial oven fire
78th Street to close to through traffic
Primary battle between Battiato, Morrissey may be only race
UNMC appoints new dean for the college of dentistry
Jeff Corwin hopes to build connection with nature at Nebraska Science Festival
Metro transit recommends streetcar, rapid-transit bus line for Omaha
6-mile stretch of Highway 75 is the road not taken
After decades looking in, Republican Dan Frei seeks chance to take action
Ben Sasse, Shane Osborn try to pin label of D.C. insider on each other
Curious about government salaries? Look no further
Easter Sunday temperatures climb into 80s in Omaha area
Omaha police investigate two nonfatal shootings
City Council to vote on adding Bluffs pedestrian safety lights
Sole big donor to Beau McCoy says he expects nothing in return
Convicted killer Nikko Jenkins might await his sentence in prison
Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
Midlands runners ready for Boston Marathon
Families from area shelters treated to meal at Old Chicago
Firefighters battle brush fire near Fontenelle Forest
Sioux City riverboat casino prepares to close, still hoping to be saved
Omaha high schoolers to help canvass for Heartland 2050
Mizzou alumni aim to attract veterinary students to Henry Doorly Zoo
< >
Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
A World War II veteran from Omaha will return this week to Europe to commemorate a tragedy in the run-up to D-Day.
Dickson’s Week in Review, April 13-19
On Twitter some guy tweeted that the spring game isn’t taken as seriously as a regular-season contest. What was your first clue? When the head coach entered waving a cat aloft?
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
The main speaker at today's Ivy Day celebration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a college president who grew up roping calves and earned her Ph.D. at the prestigious Oxford University in England.
Breaking Brad: Stuck in a claw machine? You get no Easter candy
I know of one kid in Lincoln who will be receiving a lump of coal from the Easter Bunny, just as soon as he's extricated from that bowling alley claw machine.
Breaking Brad: Mountain lion season's over, but the bunny's fair game!
Thursday was the last day of a Nebraska Legislature session. Before leaving town, legislators passed a bill to hold a lottery to hunt the Easter Bunny.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Meridian Med Spa
50% Off Botox®, Botox® Bridal Party, Fillers and Peels
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »