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We had to go to Tulsa Massacre Centennial.

Clubs and Organizations

June 11, 2021

From: City of Tulsa

We had to go to Tulsa. The overcoming spirit of the Tulsa Massacre beckoned strongly. It has been buried in history for too many years. But the 100-Year Commemoration of the Tulsa Massacre was magnifying the spirit and pulling the cover off the long-buried realities. We had to go to the Tulsa Massacre Centennial.

Faya Rose Toure, my wife of 51 years and a fellow struggler for even more years, felt the spirit beckoning us to Tulsa even before I did. She was one of the attorneys in the Tulsa Race Riot Reparation Case in 2001 along with attorneys Charles Ogletree, Johnny Cochran, Adjoa Aiyetoro and others. They went to Tulsa to present the reparation case. The Judge, however, quickly ruled against them on the grounds the massacre happened too long ago. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court without success. We had to go to the Tulsa Massacre Centennial.

Faya and I took our children to Tulsa, Oklahoma in the early nineteen nineties. But we did not go because of the Tulsa Massacre. We went because of a different massacre; the Trail of Tears Massacre.

Thousands of Native Americans had been driven from their homes and their lands taken and their lives lost in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee. They were forced to walk all the way to Oklahoma. Thirty-five hundred of the fifteen thousand died along the way from the massacre of their hopes and history and culture and way of life. The Trail of Tears Massacre was wrought by Presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren and the U.S. Congress.

Trail of Tears was not hidden but it was greatly distorted. We had to go to the Tulsa Massacre Centennial.

On Thursday, May 27, 2021, Faya and I, along with others, went on our weekly Selma Love Walk around 5:00 p.m. When we finished at six something in the evening, Faya and I commenced driving to Tulsa, Oklahoma. We stopped about 2:30 a.m. for three or so hours of sleep somewhere in Arkansas and drove on to Tulsa. It was more than 700 miles. We had to go to the Tulsa Massacre Centennial.

The 100-Year Commemoration of the Tulsa Massacre had commenced that Wednesday, the day before we left. When we arrived on Friday, we participated in several activities including the Black Panthers Tulsa Massacre Centennial Symposium. Faya was one of the presenters. A fellow struggler, Sherette Spicer, originally from Selma, Alabama, was the facilitator of the symposium. It was a powerful night which also included presentations from descendants of Tulsa Massacre survivors. We had to go to the Tulsa Massacre Centennial.

The next day, Saturday, we participated in several events. We were struck by the irony of the name of one event: The Black Panthers’ Second Amendment Centennial March. Second Amendment marches are nearly always White events. We decided to see for ourselves the sight of Black people clad in black and marching with their guns. We waited for several hours but the Second Amendment March never took place.

Law Enforcement apparently could not bear the sight of Black Panthers dressed in Black marching down Tulsa’s streets with guns. (Even though state law sanctioned it). We had to go to the Tulsa Massacre Centennial.

A very special experience involved the huge outdoor painting reflecting the Tulsa Massacre. Every time we looked at it, we saw something we had not seen before. It is a very complex painting that captures so much. It touched us in so many ways. We had to go to the Tulsa Massacre Centennial.

We were impressed by the leadership of Reverend Robert Turner who is from Alabama. As a youth, he participated in the Twenty First Century Youth Leadership Movement which Faya and I, along with others, created and nourished for many years. Reverend Turner was not just outspoken, he was well spoken.

His understanding, vision and commitment were impressive. So was his courage. We had to go to the Tulsa Massacre Centennial.

A highlight of the Tulsa Massacre Memorial Centennial experience was the Sunday Morning Service at the Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church. While the church was burned as all the other churches, homes, schools, businesses, etc., in the 1921 massacre, its basement remained. People actually hid from the rampaging White mobs in the church basement. The church was soon rebuilt. We had to go to the Tulsa Massacre Centennial.

The Sunday Service was very rewarding. The music was moving. The speakers were powerful. U.S.

Congressman James Clyburn, Reverend Jesse Jackson and his son Jonathan Jackson, U.S. Senator Chris Coons, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester and others spoke. To top it off, Pastor Turner preached a powerful and informative and moving sermon. He taught but he whooped as well. We had to go to the Tulsa Massacre Centennial.

We were inspired by the leadership of the church in the struggle for social justice. Every Wednesday, Pastor Turner and parishioners go to the Tulsa City Hall to demand that the City and State and nation recognize their responsibility for the Tulsa Massacre of 1921. They challenge them to repent, repair and restore through reparations. We had to go to Tulsa Massacre Centennial.

Over the years, Faya and I had learned a lot about the 1921 Tulsa Massacre, often called the Tulsa Race Riot, which it wasn’t. It was a massacre. I drafted a Sketches about the Massacre before we decided to go to Tulsa. However, we learned so much more while we were there. One of the most painful learnings was about an Oklahoma National Guardsman’s cutting open the stomach of a pregnant woman and taking the  baby out because she could not keep up with others marching to internment. After he cut her open and took out the baby, he ordered her back in the internment line and directed her to keep up with the others. We had to go to the Tulsa Massacre Centennial.

Before we went to the Tulsa Massacre Centennial we knew about the terrible destruction of people, buildings, and homes. However, we did not know that the Greenwood District, widely known as Black Wall Street, was rebuilt and then destroyed again by placing highways through the District and by Urban Renewal.

Today, little remains of Black Wall Street. We had to go to the Tulsa Massacre Centennial.

Faya and I left Tulsa as the Sunday Service neared an end around 1:00 p.m. We drove straight to Selma, Alabama, arriving at 1:00 a.m. Monday morning. It was a lot of driving but it was well worth every mile and every moment. We had to go to the Tulsa Massacre Centennial.

Now on to the Daily Diary.

Saturday, May 29, 2021 – We were still at the Tulsa Massacre Centennial in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We participated in a number of activities and events including visiting monuments. We tried to see the Black Panthers Second Amendment March but law enforcement stopped it. Among others, I communicated with the following: Faya Rose Toure of Selma; Reverend Robert Turner, Pastor of Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in Tulsa Oklahoma; Annie Mae Sanders of Mobile on the death of our double first cousin, Charlie Norman; Dixie Bonner of Talladega on her birthday; and several members of the Black Panthers.

Sunday – We were still in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I hosted the Sunday School Lesson with Dr. Margaret Hardy by phone on Z105.3 FM Radio Station and World Wide Web. We visited several monuments including the huge outdoor painting of the massacre. We attended the 10 o‘clock service at Vernon AME Church where a number of national leaders spoke including Congressman Jim Clyburn, Reverend Jesse Jackson, U. S. Senator Chris Coons, etc. Pastor Robert Turner preached a powerful sermon. After about three hours, we left and drove more than 700 miles back to Selma. Among others, I communicated with the following: Sharon Wheeler of Montgomery, Congressman Jim Clyburn; Reverend Jesse Jackson and his son Jonathan Jackson; and Fannie Norman Randalson of Cantonment, Florida concerning the death of a relative.

Monday – I walked three miles and co-hosted “Faya’s Fire” Radio Program. I handled many matters, participated in a SOS conference call and worked into the night. Among others, I communicated with the following: Raymond Bell of Mobile concerning the death of his sister; Lowndes County School Board member Reverend Robert Grant; and Selma Radio Personality Dr. Feel Good.

Tuesday – I walked three miles, handled many matters and worked into the night. Among others, I communicated with the following: Fourth Judicial Circuit District Attorney Michael Jackson; Michael Fletcher of Wilcox County; Gloria Pompey, Josephine Curtis, Kourtnie Nelson, Amadi Sanders and KC Bailey of Selma; Greene County School Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones; Ken Bauman of Birmingham; Charles Sanders of Bibb County; Jayne Williams of Alabama Association of School Boards (AASB); Lowndes County School Superintendent Jason Burroughs; and Allen Garner of Dallas County.

Wednesday – I walked two miles, handled many matters, attended a retirement function for the director of the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute, met with persons from New Orleans, facilitated a press conference, participated in a conference call, hosted “Radio Law Lessons,” chaired several meetings, participated in the UN Decade Zoom meeting and worked into the night. Among others, I communicated with the following: Pearlie Walker of the National Voting Rights Museum; Voting Rights Foot Solider Charles Mauldin; Charles Robertson of Greene County; Heather Gray and Jerry Pennick of Atlanta; Wendell Paris of Jackson, Mississippi; Sam Walker, Khadijah Ishaq, Geraldine Wofford and Brenda Miles of Selma; Annie Pearl Avery of the Ancient Africa and Enslavement Museum; Haigler Johnson of Montgomery; James Sanders of Baldwin County; Greene County Commissioner Lester Brown; and Latia Parker of the Bridge Crossing Jubilee.

Thursday – I walked three miles, handled many matters, traveled to Montgomery, shared a special lunch, returned to Selma, handled additional matters, attended a Dallas County New South meeting and worked into the night. Among others, I communicated with the following: Dr. Daniel Boyd; Reverend Kevin Lawrence concerning death in his family; Lowndes County District Judge Adrian Johnson; Lowndes County Sheriff Chris West; Lowndes County Administrator Jackie Thomas; Denise Ware of Monroe County; Marion City Clerk Laura Hinton; Edwin Ellis, Lewis Freeman, E. J. Rogers, Yolanda Howard and Dr. Ernest Okeke of Selma; Fourth Judicial Circuit Judge Collins Pettaway, Jr.; ANSC State Coordinator Shelly Fearson; Joyce Bigbee of Montgomery; and Montgomery businessman Julio Baten.

Friday – I walked three miles, handled many matters, called in on “Faya’ Fire,” participated in a Zoom/conference call of the Alabama Regional Economic Roundtable, co-hosted “The Public Conversation” Radio Program and worked into the night. Among others, I communicated with the following: Wallace Community College Selma President Dr. James Mitchell; John Hagood of Montgomery on his birthday; Elouise Robinson of Baldwin County; Carolyn Wheeler of Signal Mountain, Tennessee; Selma Radio Personality Lady Angel; Reverend Hugh Morris of Talladega; Selma Radio Personality Roy McMillan; and Phillip Kinney of Montgomery on his birthday.

EPILOGUE – Sometimes we are called to a moment. Sometimes we are called to a place.

Sometimes we are called to a challenge. Sometimes we are called to all three simultaneously. We were called to go to the Tulsa Massacre Centennial Memorial.