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Community honors the life and legacy of Dallas religious leader and activist Bishop Omar Jahwar

Colleagues and family members say Bishop Omar Jahwar died early Thursday morning. His team with Urban Specialists say they are prepared to continue his vision.

DALLAS — Some community members across Dallas are mourning the loss of a man who they are describing as a mentor, motivator, minister, and leader who was committed to helping spark change across communities that are often neglected. 

Bishop Omar Jahwar died on Thursday, March 11.

Bishop Omar, as those closed to him would call him, was founder of the Dallas-based nonprofit Urban Specialists. His circle of supporters say losing him is tough.

"This was totally unexpected. Praying for the family. Trying to life the family up,” said Antong Lucky, national engagement director for Urban Specialists.

Through Urban Specialists, Bishop Omar and his diverse team were committed to tackling senseless violence around the City of Dallas. They conducted gang interventions, adopted streets, held town hall forums, and provided a variety of resources for residents. 

Bishop Omar also spear-headed the OGU initiative geared at training residents to become Violence Interrupters in their own neighborhoods.

In 2020, community members surprised Bishop Omar by nominating him as a WFAA Daybreak Rise and Shiner. It’s a recognition given to people across Dallas-Fort Worth who demonstrate a passion for service and seeking out solutions.

At the time, Bishop Omar’s wife, Anita, explained why the family supported his mission.

“He would get a call in the middle of the night, and he would say, 'Babe, I’ve got to go.' Such and such needs me. And I’m like, you don’t even know the kid. He said, 'I know I don’t know them, but I feel like I know them. I feel like we can bring them back,'” recalled Mrs. Jahwar. 

Before his death, Bishop Omar’s work included expanding Urban Specialists and its programs to other cities across the nation. He also promoted social justice, civil rights, and racial equity through initiatives like the Heal America Tour. 

Friends say Bishop Omar would often tell people, “Only inspired people can inspire people. So, when you are feeling that exhaustion, tap into someone who is still moving.”

Lucky said Bishop Omar left instructions for his team, and Urban Specialists will continue living out his vision.  

"Dallas didn’t just lose a giant. The world lost a giant in Bishop Omar,” said Lucky.

A candlelight vigil and balloon release in honor of Bishop Omar has been scheduled for Monday, March 15 at 7 p.m. on the side parking lot of Gilley’s, 1135 South Lamar, Dallas, TX 75215.

A memorial service is scheduled 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, March 19 at Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, 650 S. Griffin St., Dallas, TX 75202.

The Celebration of Life for Bishop Omar will be 11 a.m. Saturday, March 20, at Concord Church, 6808 Pastor Bailey Dr., Dallas, TX 75237. Social distancing protocols will be in place.