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Black leaders accuse Mayor Bynum of divide, conquer tactic to remove BLM mural

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C.J. Weber-Neal chair of the Greenwood Arts & Cultural Society addresses his organization’s disapproval of the City of Tulsa’s plans to remove the Black Lives Matter mural. The photo was taken by Cory Young for The Black Wall Street Times on Greenwood Ave, Greenwood District, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Tuesday, August 4, 2020 


Published 08/04/2020 | Reading Time 3 min 9 sec 

By BWSTimes Staff 

In today’s press conference regarding the Black Lives Matter street mural, Dr. Freeman Culver, president of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, said he received an email from a City of Tulsa staff member that said on Monday, August 3, 2020, Greenwood Avenue would shut down.

Dr. Culver writes, in a forwarded email to one of the tenants, “I think they are removing the BLM on Monday.”

The Black Wall Street Times obtained an image of that email, corroborating Dr. Culver’s story.

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“It was told to me to inform all the tenants that the streets would be closed down. That tells me that a decision was already made,” Dr. Culver said during the press conference. Dr. Culver informed the press that he didn’t tell the Mayor that there were businesses on Greenwood that wanted the Black Lives Matter mural removed during their meeting. 

On Monday the mayor’s office released a statement, saying, “The property owner indicated they do not want the mural to remain. The merchant and tenant association indicated they do not want the mural to remain.” 

Dr. Culver’s statement disagrees with that of the Mayor’s. 

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In the middle of a COVID-19 update, Mayor Bynum stood by the remarks released yesterday by his office, stating, “Over the weekend, it was brought to my attention that the Greenwood Chamber had not really been properly engaged in knowing what their options were relative to keeping the mural in place. But the Greenwood Chamber owns the property on both sides of that street there. And they had not been properly engaged.”

There is no indication that the Chamber approached Mayor Bynum’s office regarding the mural.

The Mayor went on to say that he approached the Chamber to “let them know what their options were.” The Mayor told the Chamber that they could ask the city to vacate the street, but would leave the Chamber responsible for maintenance cost. The Mayor said their other option was to pursue a permit through the city council and said the city council is responsible for the process. “This is one of those unique things that usually the mayor has sole executive responsibility at the city, this is one that is only reserved for the city council. The mayor is not involved in the process,” Mayor Bynum said.

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But there are questions remaining: Who brought to the Mayor’s attention that the Greenwood Chamber wanted the mural removed — which Dr. Culver said is unfounded, and that the Greenwood Chamber was upset because they weren’t involved in the process of creating the mural? This is also in opposition to how the Tulsa World described Culver’s feelings of irritation that the City of Tulsa would approach him about the matter. Why is the Mayor actively involved with having the mural removed if that right is reserved for the city council? If the mayor can issue a stop removal order, why won’t he keep it in place until the city votes on whether to keep or remove the mural if he cares about Black lives?

The Mayor has yet to publicly utter or communicative via social media the words “Black Lives Matter,” referencing the mural by the word “it” in his Facebook post, and intentionally not using the phrase during his COVID-19 update press conference.

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Dr. Freeman Culver addressing press about allegations Greenwood businesses told him or the Mayor that they wanted the Black Lives Matter mural removed. The photo was taken by Cory Young for The Black Wall Street Times on Greenwood Ave, Greenwood District, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Tuesday, August 4, 2020


Early Tuesday, Dr. Culver told The Black Wall Street Times that, “The Mayor of Tulsa and the city council controls the street. Not the Greenwood Chamber.” He went on to say, “We don’t want any part of any controversy. Go to the leaders of the City of Tulsa, including the Mayor and the city councilors. Leave the chamber out of this. We are doing our best to preserve the history of Greenwood and the Black Wall Street buildings. We do not need further tensions in our Black community. We need to come together as a people.” 

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Dr. Culver continued defending his innocents regarding accusations that he too initially wanted the mural removed, saying, “We house the local Black Lives Matter (group) right here (referring to Tykebrean Natrail Cheshier a local organizer of Black Lives Matter rallies) on Greenwood, at the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce. We house them right here. Now how, and why, would we want this [refering to the Black Lives Matter street mural on Greenwood Ave.] removed? This is something that the Mayor of Tulsa is using to divide the Black community. And I say no to that. We’re not going to let the Mayor of Tulsa, the City Council of Tulsa, and we aren’t going to let any political leader in Tulsa or in this state divide the Black community. We stand together, and that’s all I have to say.” 

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Mayoral candidate Greg Robinson speaks to media regarding his disapproval in city leaders’ plans to removal the Black Lives Matter mural from Greenwood Avenue. The photo was taken by Cory Young for The Black Wall Street Times on Greenwood Ave, Greenwood District, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Tuesday, August 4, 2020


Dr. Culver wasn’t the only Black community leader accusing the Mayor of trying to divide Tulsa’s Black community over the mural. Others spoke up as well, including the owner of the Oklahoma Eagle, Jim Goodwin, State Rep. Regina Goodwin, the Oklahoma Democratic Party Chair Alica Andrews, Dr. Pastor Robert Turner of the Historic Vernon AME Church, C.J. Weber-Neal chair of the Greenwood Arts & Cultural Society, and mayoral candidate Greg Robinson.

Robinson told the press, “I’m more disappointed in our leaders because we have gone back to an old trope of pitting community against community, not even Black against White but now even trying to pit Black against Black.” 

Mayor Bynum plans to continue with the removal of the Black Lives Matter mural.

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