Published 02/13/2020 | Reading Time 2 min 42 sec
By J. Kavin Ross, Senior Writer
TULSA, Okla. — “Today we get to name this center after a historic person who is very much among us,” Mayor G.T. Bynum said.
Once upon a time in a place called Suburban Acres, every home was occupied and painted white. Storefronts like Ben Franklins, OTASCO, and Bestyet grocery were plentiful and bustling.
Children not only attended schools within their own neighborhoods, but they also spent countless hours at the community centers near their homes. Centers such as Springdale, B.C. Franklin, and Chamberlain were active. Kids would walk from all over Suburban Acres, many times barefooted, just to swim on those hot summer days. The pool was smaller than other parks, but it was just as fun.
Decades later, numerous homes were abandoned and boarded up. The once-thriving shopping centers served only as shells of their former existence. Recreation centers — in what is unceremoniously dubbed by local media as north Tulsa — were closed, abandoned, and eventually demolished.
“I saw a need when the city was trying to tear Chamberlain down. We just couldn’t let that happen,” Jane A. Malone said. We need to stop saying that Tulsa is a tale of two cities, Tulsa is Tulsa,” Malone declared. “We work, we live, and we play all in Tulsa. We need to develop all of Tulsa. We need to be consistent,” Malone continued.
“We went through a couple of dark decades with our rec centers. This rec center in particular,” Mayor G.T. Bynum admitted.
Previous administrations did not want the responsibility of the upkeep of rec centers, and a number of them fell victim to the city’s bulldozers.
“Year after year, when no money was in the budget, Jane Malone would come forth and demand that enough money be there to keep the center open. Sometimes she would be the only one, and we wanted to do right by Chamberlain,” Bynum said.
With the lack of funding and programming, the center eventually closed its doors for about five years.
“Mayor Bynum did not only wanted any more parks closed, in fact, he’d increased the budget so that all Tulsans can receive equal access to the quality of life and physical activities. The park department’s annual budget was increased to $3 million,” stated former city councilor Anna America, who currently serves as the director of Tulsa’s Park and Recreation.
Last Saturday, February 8, hundreds of Tulsans were on hand for the official renaming of the Chamberlain facility to the Jane A. Malone Center.
Malone, a known activist in the community, worked tirelessly over the years with numerous city officials in making sure that Chamberlain received its fair share of the park department’s annual budget.
Referring to the center’s renovations, “I’m kind of overwhelmed of all the work that had been done,” said Malone, who was obviously emotional at the site of the remodeled interior. The audience erupted with thunderous applause when the mayor officially proclaimed the Jane A. Malone Center.
“So often we name things in Tulsa after historic people from our pass. Today we get to name this center after a historic person who is very much among us,” Bynum stated.
The festivities continued inside the center where various dancers were of support for their presentations for Ms. Malone and her family.
Today, the Jane A. Malone Center includes a weight room, gym with a full-size basketball court, and bleachers, an arts and craft room, kitchen, a multi-purpose room, and a separate annex. There will be other programs and activities. The Jane A. Malone Center in Chamberlain Park is located 4940 N. Frankfort Avenue. The hours of operations are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m, Saturday 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. and closed on Sundays.
J. Kevin Ross is a contributing writer for the Black Wall Street Times and the Founder and Editor of the Greenwood Tribune. James Kavin Ross is a connoisseur of all things Black Wall Street of America. Since his return from Houston, Texas, now over two decades, Ross hit the ground running in the quest of researching the hidden and untapped history of Tulsans of the Greenwood community. Inspired by the works of Dr. John Hope Franklin, a native Tulsan and world-renowned author and historian, Ross was lead on the path in search of the history of Black Wall Street of America. Researching the history and culture of his hometown is just one of his many passions.