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Black Tulsans apprehensive about possible Trump visit to Greenwood

Black Tulsans apprehensive about possible Trump visit to Greenwood

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Greenwood District

A portion of the Greenwood District is pictured. Tulsa World file

Leaders of Tulsa’s black community say they fear a visit by President Donald Trump to the Greenwood area could erupt into violence, and they don’t want that.

“I share that concern that things could turn very bad, very quickly,” said state Sen. Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, whose district includes Greenwood.

“My pastor and the other faith leaders are preaching love, not hate. Be intentional, not emotional,” Matthews said.

On Monday, Gov. Kevin Stitt said he’s invited Trump to tour the Greenwood area while in Tulsa for a Saturday rally at the BOK Center.

Several Greenwood-area residents, speaking on background, said they fear people already on edge about events in Tulsa and nationally could boil over into destructive behavior.

At the least, Matthews pointed out, a visit would likely disrupt Juneteenth activities planned for that day.

The Juneteenth celebration was canceled because of COVID-19 concerns, but festivities were hastily organized in recent days as a counter to Trump’s rally at the BOK Center.

In recent days, local leaders said they’ve heard from people across the nation wanting to send “busloads” of protesters to Tulsa, something they find unsettling. They say they fear Trump setting foot in the historic Greenwood District, including ONEOK Field, could send things spiraling out of control.

Matthews said he relayed those concerns to Stitt on Monday afternoon.

Many Tulsans were upset that Trump originally scheduled his rally for Friday — June 19, historically an important date for black emancipation in the West at the end of the Civil War.

That anger cooled somewhat when the Trump campaign moved the rally back a day, to Saturday, but concerns rose again when Stitt said he’d invited Trump to Greenwood.

“These types of things happen when you don’t have diversity at the table,” Matthews said. “For those who say they didn’t know, or that it wasn’t intentional, it is intentional ... if you didn’t include (black Tulsans) in the discussion.”

Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa, said he thinks any recent president, going back more than a quarter of a century, would have been welcomed to Greenwood, but that “President Trump is very different.”

“ ‘Fine people on both sides’ in Charlottesville,” Nichols said. “His birtherism with President (Barack) Obama. These are the kinds of things that make black people uncomfortable,” Nichols said.

Trump says he’s done more for black Americans than any president in history, but not many seem to agree. His refusal to condemn a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that resulted in the death of a counter protester and his insistence that Obama was not born in the United States are two examples of behavior widely condemned by black Americans and many whites as well.

That said, Nichols is less worried about violence if Trump were to visit Greenwood.

“I’m not concerned about that,” he said. “I’d tell people he’s not worth it.”

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Randy Krehbiel



Twitter: @rkrehbiel


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