Editorial

In Tulsa, Black History Ends at the Frisco Railroad Tracks

Published 02/02/20 | Reading Time 3 min 43 sec 

By Nehemiah D. Frankfounder, director, and executive editor 

In my midwestern American city of Tulsa, Black History ends at the Frisco railroad tracks. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. ends at the center of the downtown bridge directly over the railway that once marked the line of racial demarcation through decades of racist Jim Crow laws that seemingly tried blanketing our Black dignity as human beings, while we relentlessly aimed for social and economic progress on Black Wall Street.  

Even two decades into the 21st century, the majority of White folks in this once self-proclaimed Confederate-outpost have no desire to place the crown of racial conciliation on the tops of their privileged heads. After all, to them, that Ph.D. was the Negro’s King. And like the crucifixion of Jesus, one of the worst among them diabolically sent our King back to us in the casket by a flying bullet of racial hatred. 

It was only out of necessity, not compassion nor the spirit of friendliness that Whites granted us, Black people, the permission to honor our King in nearly all American cities. But as the dog marks his territory on every neighborhood’s fire hydrant, White Americans with their political power stopped the honoring of that virtuous Black American where their commerce and communities began, and ours ended.

Candidly, when I see some White elected leaders at the MLK parades, Juneteenth festivals, Black churches during election season, and their social media posts during ‘Black History Month,’ I can’t seem to control the stinging feeling palpitating from the epicenter of my existence, flagging their unauthenticity.  

The higher in age the universe permits me to climb, the unfortunate social observations begin to settle and nestle in the depths of my black — always thinking— consciousness. My assumptions about their participation in our cultural activities become the very inquiries that I deliver to God, asking: Do they truly believe in the unification of all races, or is this just another activity to make them not appear so racist?

I have never been one to believe that all White people are evil. My mother raised me to take caution in knowing that there are good and bad in every racial-tribe on this planet. But through the years, I have come to the understanding that humankind doesn’t value all ethnicities the same. Some racial groups are looked upon as being suspicious, untrustworthy, less intelligent, and prone to criminal behavior, while others are always looked upon as righteous. 

Nevertheless, many Black leaders like Dr. King still transformed the hearts and minds of a multitude, enough for America to pace five steps forward because these Black leaders knew we would be forced, in some unforeseen way, to take three steps backward.

Some of the Whites still tell us, ‘we should be happy with the two paces.’ 

So with that type of thinking, how can I realistically expect for MLK to continue passed the Frisco railroad tracks across downtown and into the majority-White section of town? 

It may even be silly for me to expect that when Black and Brown public school students in Tulsa are still academically lagging in the double digits and the school-to-prison pipeline’s lever is set to high, fast-tracking our Black and Brown babies toward prison at higher rates today than in the history of the American prison-industrial complex.

How can I hope for ‘that’ when Black Americans are still earning 73 cents to every dollar that a White American makes? 

How can I expect us as a city to extend the moral MLK road, leading to the ‘promised land’ when we change the channel and look the other way when journalist and activist tell us that indigenous people are still missing and Brown people are criminalized and locked away for crossing an invisible line when their ancestors were here first? 

How can I expect White Tulsans and White America to adopt Dr. King’s vision, too, when Black women excited to become mothers have a higher probability of dying during childbirth, and an 11-year life expectancy gap still persists? 

Why should I expect MLK to continue passed this 21st-century demarcation line when the areas near MLK Blvd. are a police state that’s presumably ridden with high-crime?   

How can I convince White churches to practice what they preach — to love their neighbors as they love themselves and to care for the foreigners among them — and listen to their Black acquaintances when we say: ‘Racism still exists?’ 

How can I persuade White Tulsans and White America to adopt Dr. King’s vision, too — and not for just one month — but 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, and 12-months out of the year? How can I convince my White neighbors that we are mightier together while we are as divided today as we were before the murder of the brave soul that tried unifying America racially?

It may even be silly for me to expect that when Black and Brown public school students in an integrated school system are still academically lagging in the double digits in comparison to their White classmates with the school-to-prison pipeline’s lever set at high, fast-tracking our Black and Brown babies toward prison at higher rates today than any other period in American history. 

If Dr. King were still with us, I think he’d like to see MLK extended from the Frisco tracks through downtown to the Gathering Place — at least that’s my dream. It’s an idea, a small pace forward, and a realistic goal that could be achieved quickly.


Nehemiah FrankNehemiah D. Frank is the founder, executive editor, and director of The Black Wall Street Times, a digital news media company that believes access is the new civil right. He graduated with a general studies degree from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL, and a political science degree from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and was a member and chapter president of the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society. Today, he is a blogger for Education Post, based in Chicago, IL, and a board member for the Tulsa World, Tulsa Press Club, and Tulsa’s Table. Other than the Black Wall Street Times, Frank’s work has been featured in Time Magazine, the Tulsa World, Education Post, Citizens Ed, and many other publications. He is also a public school educator at a local community-led charter school and is a member of Superintendent Joy Hofmeister’s Education Task Force for Equity and Inclusion. In 2017, Frank became a Terence Crutcher Foundation honoree, a recipient of the 2017 METCares Foundation Community Impact Award, a 2018 Black Educators Fellow and gave a TED Talk at the University of Tulsa.

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Categories: Editorial