Courtesy of BlackPress
By Autumn Brown
TULSA, Okla. — Monday, June 17, OKPOP museum welcomed esteemed journalist and Tulsa Native Carmen Fields. Fields engaged in a dialogue about Tulsa, journalism, and public affairs at the Rudisill Regional Library located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Fields was a graduate of Booker T. Washington class of ’66.
The dialogue began with a clip from Fields’, “Goin’ Back to T-Town” (1993), her PBS documentary about the Greenwood community in Tulsa. The Greenwood district, also known as Black Wall Street, was one of Oklahoma’s most prominent communities of Black businesses until the 1921 race massacre destroyed the once thriving community.
Fields spoke of what it was like growing up in Tulsa, calling it a “nurturing community.” She spoke of the metaphorical village that aided in her upbringing, adding that her “teachers were important in preparing students for a future they could have never imagined.”
An interesting point Fields raised was the issue of class. Intra-racial class distinctions can create barriers within the Black community, in which those from the black bourgeois purposely separate from those belonging to economically disadvantaged communities. However, Ms. Fields says that while she was growing up, “class distinctions weren’t as pronounced. We were all on the same side of town. Same school. Same churches. Community.”
In my opinion, we have moved further away from this idea of community. By segregating ourselves by class, we allow the deterioration and gentrification of the very communities that bred activists and visionaries such as Fields.
She spoke of her education with such ferocity. Reiterating the importance of teachers and their impact on students. She speaks of her memories at Booker T.Washington and jovially explains that she’s “amused at how young ladies dress today in school.” She spoke of the “standard of dress and conduct” then versus now.
Fields spoke of her career trajectory, noting that her time as a guest columnist for the Oklahoma Eagle is what encouraged her to pursue journalism as a career. Her column “Scoopin’ the Scoop” showed her that she had a story and people wanted to hear it.
Through her writing, Ms. Fields addressed race relations as she navigated a Journalism career in Boston during turbulent times.
“I came to Boston to study broadcast journalism,” she says as she speaks of her initial interests in working in radio or television. Her dreams were almost actualized, as she was offered a job in Miami. But, because she had not finished her thesis thus not completing her degree, her mother insisted she get her diploma first.
Lucky for us, those plans were thwarted, and she landed a position at the Boston Globe newspaper. Ironically, this was during a time when schools were desegregating, and as part of the team covering desegregation in Boston Public Schools, she won the Pulitzer Prize.
As a broadcaster, Fields has been nominated for six regional Emmy awards and has won two, one for a story on the Ku Klux Klan in Boston.
Fields reiterated the importance of a community, and places where she found hers while in Boston.
She cites these as “a source of information.” To Fields, “Community was very important in keeping me in the know.”
Listening to Ms. Fields speak and recollect her experiences growing up in Tulsa, pursuing journalism as a career, and navigating a new home during rowdy times, I walked out encouraged. Hearing how Fields climbed the ladder and used her talents to make change was not only inspiring but transformative.
Like Fields, I hope to use my writing as a platform for the voiceless and shut out.
Special thanks to the OKPOP museum for putting together such an event. OKPOP is a museum that focuses on popular culture and its connections to Oklahoma. The OKPOP museum is a State of Oklahoma project whose guiding principle is to inspire others, both young and old, that they can accomplish big things.
The museum will be built on what is now the Cain’s Ballroom parking lot, directly across from Cain’s Ballroom. Though their doors are not open yet, they are still actively working in the community putting on programs and collaborating with others. OKPOP seeks to promote things that align with their values, such as literacy, history, and informative programming.
Very special thank you to Dexter Nelson II, Manager of Exhibits for OKPOP, for allowing the Black Wall Street Times to cover the event. For more information about future events and progress on the newly built OKPOP museum, the museum can be found on Facebook at OKPOP.
Autumn Brown is a doctoral student in social foundations of education at Oklahoma State University. Social foundations analyzes and explains educational issues, policies, and practices through the lenses of history, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies. Its goal is to improve the educational experiences for members belonging to marginalized groups. Her research focus centers around the experiences of black women in STEM and black women within the academy. She also researches racial body politics, sexuality, and intimate justice for black women. She has published a book chapter titled “Breaking the silence: Black women’s experience with abortion,” and has presented her work on the intense policing of the black female body nationally. Autumn plans on continuing her pursuits in bringing awareness to the injustices imposed on members within her community, and advocating for equitable education for black and brown students. She plans on finishing her Ph.D. in May 2020 and hopes to move into a tenure-tracked faculty position at a top tier research university.