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By Orisabiyi Oyin Williams, Contributor
As the 1921 Race Massacre Centennial approaches, you will start to see people who have become suddenly interested in Black Wall Street and Greenwood that you have never previously seen show interest in its success, reconciliation, or honoring the remaining survivors.
Now there has been an immediate rush to clarify the historical boundaries of Greenwood and a huge focus on the centennial. Bob Blackburn the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Historical Society has now become a champion to get the area on the historical registry and U.S. Senator Lankford has really been helpful. It’s good to see people interested in the success of Black Wall Street and Greenwood and seeking reconciliation. It’s good to see that our State Sen. Kevin Matthews formed the 1921 Race Riot Centennial Commission (yes, he needs to get rid of the word riot and replace it with massacre in the name of the commission) to serve as a vehicle for reconciliation and the Centennial ceremonies. When you have this type of immediate attraction you have to ask yourself, “Why?”
In the Vision package that Tulsa passed last year, tourism for Greenwood was widely supported by many North Tulsa residents. It was something they really wanted to see. North Tulsa residents were unhappy that the Greenwood Walking Tour proposed by Bill White was not selected to appear in the Vision Package, which is why the majority of North Tulsa didn’t vote YES for the Vision Package. We knew the type of dollars tourism would bring to Greenwood. In fact, Oklahoma Tourism Department data shows that Oklahoma Tourism generates $8.6 billion in revenue annually. There was a study done by Dean Runyan Associates in 2016 that showed Senator Kevin Matthew’s District 11 could benefit in the amount of $33 million in revenue, including $11.7 in state and local revenue.
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture has an exhibit about Black Wall Street and Greenwood which has caused more people to come and visit Tulsa. It makes sense to have Black Wall Street and Greenwood marked in the historic registry, and it would make sense for The Race Riot Centennial Commission to seek to become an affiliate of the Smithsonian. It makes sense to create a Race Riot Centennial Commission comprised mostly of people who have had no interest in building Greenwood prior to these findings. It also makes sense as to why the George Kaiser Family Foundation helped to send Senator Matthews and Reverend Jamaal Dyer to Washington D.C. to inquire about being an affiliate of the Smithsonian. There are some great benefits of being an affiliate of the Smithsonian, such as collaborative funding and loan assistance. See more of the benefits here.
Senate Bill 17 passed, which granted the Oklahoma Historical Society to serve as the administrators of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Centennial Memorial Revolving Fund. This is why we see the sense of urgency from Executive Director Bob Blackburn of The Oklahoma Historical Society. They see the money coming that will be made from Black Wall Street and Greenwood. It could be a very good thing, and it could be a very bad thing. It’s a bad thing when you have white people come in who will control our history. Historically, what happens when White people control our history is that they will hire other White folks to tell it, and if they hire Black people to tell the story, it will be the story they want to tell. HIS-STORY. Let me be clear that not all White people are this way because there are White people who totally understand this. It is critical that we control the narrative. This is why transparency and involving the community is vital in planning the future of a historical area such as Black Wall Street and Greenwood, that this community holds so dear to our hearts. So the question remains, “Who profits from Greenwood?”
I am always more concerned with what is not being said rather than what is being said. Our Greenwood Chamber has been in shambles and the people who really cared and wanted the best for Greenwood have been removed. When you connect the dots, you can just see how the takeover is happening. It’s hard to trust others when there is no transparency, and when there is a lot of money involved. The integrity of these efforts leads me to wonder if U.S Senator Lankford is okay with people being involved who have had no interest in Black Wall Street and Greenwood. Is Lankford okay without the community really having a say in who controls Black Wall Street and Greenwood?
I want the best for Black Wall Street and Greenwood, and I want to see it grow and be successful. As a friend of mine always tells me, “The issue isn’t so much about where you’re going but it’s about how and what you do to get there.”
Senator Kevin Matthews Facebook Page District 11 Report https://www.facebook.com/staterep.kevinmatthews.9/about?lst=100000170077215%3A100004254998329%3A1508603593
Orisabiyi Oyin Williams is a mother of two and author. Orisabiyi was born in Philadelphia Pennsylvania and later moved to Tulsa at the age of 10. She graduated from Memorial High School in 1993. She is a Community Activist and believes in leaving her community in a better state than how she found it. Orisabiyi serves as Chair of the Tulsa’s Coalition for Social Justice, a member of The Tulsa African Study Group. Orisabiyi has been involved in initiatives such as bringing awareness and education to the community. Orisabiyi was the Campaign Manager for City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper and helped establish the African American Affairs Commission in Tulsa, with City Councilor and Community Activist Vanessa Hall Harper.