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Tulsa World editorial: North Tulsans need to lead memorials of Tulsa Race Massacre

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Tulsa Race Riot Massacre mass graves investigation (copy)

A $1.5 million line item for the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission is included in the proposed $8.13 billion general appropriation bill passed by the Legislature last week. Courtesy

Planning for memorials and events to recognize the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre in 2021 are ramping up.

From a state-recognized commission to private organizations, groups are working on remembrances to honor the victims and encourage reflection and action on racial reconciliation.

The event of 1921 should be memorialized significantly and properly — with authentic remorse for what happened and under the guidance of Tulsa’s black community.

For generations, the 1921 race massacre was absent from Oklahoma history books. It was deliberately covered up and eventually disappeared from the memories of succeeding generations outside the Greenwood and north Tulsa districts.

This omission is an insult to African American residents. It compounds the moral stain of the original crime.

The past cannot be changed, but we can do better moving forward.

Among the first steps is providing public places for obtaining accurate information.

The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, led by Sen. Kevin Matthews, plans to renovate and expand the Greenwood Cultural Center to complement the John Hope Franklin Center of Reconciliation. This museum has been sought for more than 20 years and will cost at least $9 million out of a $25 million capital campaign.

The commission recently returned from Montgomery, Alabama, where members gathered ideas from the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, the Legacy Museum of African American History and the Rosa Parks Museum. It also has a May 30 groundbreaking planned for the Path to Hope, a walking tour of the original Greenwood area.

The Tulsa Community Remembrance Coalition intends to create an outdoor memorial at the historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church, 311 N. Greenwood Ave. It is working with the Equal Justice Initiative based in Montgomery, Alabama, on the project, expected to cost about $3 million.

The coalition says it will place a historical marker on the church grounds to recognize Black Wall Street and launch an essay contest in partnership with Tulsa Public Schools.

These are in addition to city efforts including a search for mass graves as overseen by a citizen commission.

Embarrassed by the horrors of 1921, the city’s white leadership sought to cover it up. But the stain would not disappear.

Everyone is responsible for funding and helping memorializing the events of 1921; we should all own it. But the key voices at the table should be the descendants of victims and current residents of the neighborhoods destroyed in the century-old tragedy.


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