Photo by Corey Young
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Op-Ed By Rep. Monroe Nichols, State House District 72
One Tulsa. One city. How many times have we heard that lately? It’s a great sentiment, but it just hasn’t been a reality for the least of us.
The IDL overpass on Greenwood Ave. has historically been a symbol of division. A community split by systemic racism that has always been a driving factor in infrastructure development — a second wave of destruction to the historic Greenwood District’s business owners and residents. But Juneteenth weekend of 2020 forever changed how I’ll look at the concrete memorial of Black lives not mattering.
Greenwood reclaimed that overpass. We reclaimed the joy that once filled the businesses and homes that were rebuilt by residents after the Tulsa Race Massacre and then bulldozed by racism. It’s taken me a while to really understand the gravity of what we did Saturday night, Tulsa. We danced in the streets. We honored the memory of the thousands of lives taken or forever changed by state-sanctioned racism. Allies from every part of Tulsa, and many from throughout Oklahoma, converged in Greenwood. I can’t help but think of how the world was watching Tulsa, expecting the worst, and we showed them the strength of our ancestors embodied through our actions.
Here’s the issue, though. We can’t be “one Tulsa” when those in power go on radio talk shows and agree that collaborating on the reasonable demands of Black Tulsans is like “feeding a beast.” We can’t be “one city” when there is a law enforcement officer in a position of power who says that police are “shooting African Americans about 24% less” than they should be — and our Mayor calls for an apology rather than his immediate dismissal. We can’t come together as “one Tulsa” when an entire community lives in a food desert with poor infrastructure, underfunded schools, over-policing, inadequate public transportation, scarce healthcare resources and elected officials who consistently vote and advocate for policies that will further disenfranchise them.Tulsans proved that they’re ready to do more than just say they want to come together as one city. Juneteenth weekend was proof that when leaders turn their back, we turn to each other – Tulsans are going to lead the way – let’s hope all of my fellow elected officials take note and follow their example.
This movement can be our time, but it all comes down to one question that every Tulsan must answer, what am I willing to do?
If you read this but don’t go vote — you wasted our time.
If you showed up to the rally but don’t show up the next time police reform is being debated at the city council meeting – you wasted our time.
If you took the time to make signs but don’t take the time to reach out to your elected official about the undeniable need for change – you wasted our time.
If you said you’re an ally, but aren’t willing to use your privilege to benefit those without it, you wasted our time.
I’m reminded of a quote by Alice Walker; “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” You have phenomenal collective power, Tulsa – now it’s time to use it!
Rep. Monroe Nichols represents state house district 72 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Nichols serves as the house minority caucus vice-chair and recently announced March for Reform – a set of comprehensive policing reform initiatives.