Opinion

From Pain to Purpose: A Conversation with Dr. Tiffany Crutcher

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(Photo Courtesy of Tulsa World)

By Hailey Rae

On September 16, 2016, the lives of one Tulsa family were altered in a way that they could have never anticipated. On that day, Terence Crutcher, a 40-year-old unarmed black man, was shot and killed by then-Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby. The days and years to come thrust the Crutcher family into the spotlight, specifically Terence’s twin sister Dr. Tiffany Crutcher. Since the shooting death of her brother, Dr. Crutcher has been on CNN, MSNBC, The View, 60 Minutes, The Steve Harvey Morning Show, Rickey Smiley Radio Broadcast, British television shows, and most local Tulsa news stations.

The narrative of Terence Crutcher and the Crutcher family has been molded by the media, social media, and word of mouth. However, it is important to understand that prior to Terence’s horrific death, the Crutcher family and Dr. Tiffany Crutcher were a normal family with ordinary lives. Dr. Crutcher notes that before Terence’s death, “life was normal to say the least… I was very active in my personal and professional life. [I was] a full-time healthcare provider, credentialed clinical instructor, mentor to aspiring leaders and entrepreneurs, and [I was] very involved in community service related to disenfranchised communities… [I was] very family-oriented, and [I] loved spending time with my nieces and nephews, and friends.”

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(Photo courtesy of Justin Tyson | Prototype Design & Photography)

After her brother’s death, Dr. Crutcher’s life, goals and priorities changed drastically. Although Dr. Crutcher is still family-oriented and very involved with her nieces, nephews and friends, her life has become a “whirlwind” of press appearances, speaking engagements, and trying to maintain a sense of normalcy while coping with the unspeakable death of her twin brother.

Dr. Crutcher says, “People would not believe the pain and mental trauma I have endured personally since Terence’s death. All people see is a strong black woman fighting for her family and community. What they don’t see is what’s going on behind the scenes when I go home at night and lay my head on my pillow. It’s like a broken record playing over and over in my head, replaying the tragic night I received the phone call telling me my twin was dead. I continue to hear my dad, my hero, screaming in the phone ‘they killed my son’ crying at the top of his lungs. When I close my eyes, all I see is Terence’s body lying on the street bleeding. People never witness the anxiety attacks, nor are they aware of the exploitation and humiliation that my family is dealing with daily related to the judicial system.”

Dr. Crutcher pushes through her pain to initiate change. After Terence’s death, Dr. Crutcher and her parents, Rev. Joey and Leanna Crutcher, created the Terence Crutcher Foundation. When asked about the evolution of the foundation, Dr. Crutcher stated that during the first year of the foundation they were focused on finding their place in the community. Now they are focused on implementing police reform, giving back to the community, hosting anti-violence community events, holding town hall meetings, and helping to cultivate young black leaders. Additionally, the foundation holds police accountability trainings for concerned citizens.

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(Photo courtesy of Justin Tyson | Prototype Design & Photography)

This year, the foundation is having their second annual Terence Crutcher Foundation Gala, and the date and recipients of various awards including the BAD dude award will be announced soon. Dr. Crutcher has been focused on implementing change with 50 other organizations and community leaders demanding that the City of Tulsa implement police reform and that the city council hold hearings to investigate the findings of the Equality Report that City of Tulsa released showing racial disparities and inequalities present throughout the city.

Dr. Tiffany Crutcher is a magnetic woman that wants to take the pain she experienced from her brother’s death and turn it into lasting change that would affect the lives of all Tulsans, specifically Tulsans that have been ignored and overlooked for far too long. Again, it is important to note that Dr. Crutcher and the Crutcher family are still trying to cope with the loss of their beloved son, father, brother, nephew and friend while fighting for justice. “My life and routine has been derailed,” said Dr. Crutcher. “Unfortunately, I had to park the car on so many things that I loved and was cultivating because of the actions of Betty Shelby and the flawed training of Tulsa Police Department. My focus in life has shifted into activism and advocacy for disenfranchised and marginalized communities fighting daily to make sure what happened to Terence never happens to anyone else.”

For more information about the Terence Crutcher Foundation, please visit: https://terencecrutcherfoundation.org/

For more information about the letter that the Crutcher family, NAACP Legal Defense Fund and local leaders wrote addressing racial biases in policing, please visit:  https://www.krmg.com/news/local/naacp-local-leaders-demand-city-address-racial-bias-policing/wDv3AtmccKlgdWgIePV4ZI/


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Hailey Ferguson is a contributing editor of The Black Wall Street Times, a proud ally for people of color, an advocate for Women’s Rights, and a member of Aware Tulsa‘s Vision Team. She currently studies social work at Northeastern State University.

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Categories: Opinion