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On Thursday morning, Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, Greg Robinson, and OSU-Tulsa leadership welcomed the new Greenwood mural on OSU-Tulsa’s campus, depicting the events of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
The mural, which stands across the street from the Greenwood Cultural Center, and adjacent to Vernon AME church, was created by artist Michael Rosato, who was commissioned after Dr. Crutcher saw a painting of Harriet Tubman and her family completed by Mr. Rosato, two years ago.
Mr. Rosato, who was called to the microphone, became emotional when discussing the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, and his honor in being selected to create art that reflects the tragedy. Mr. Rosato is known for his large murals, and not only painting them, but also installing each piece of artwork personally.
Unveiling unleashes strong emotions
Drawing tears and gasps from the crowd, the mural shows a woman holding a man who appears to have been murdered during the massacre, while a white man — likely a police officer, or deputized by one — stares menacingly at the couple. In the background, the sign for the Dreamland Theatre hangs down precariously, while fire burns all around it.
Both Dr. Crutcher and Mr. Robinson spoke at the unveiling event. Dr. Crutcher reminded the crowd that the artwork is not just for tourists to look at and snap a picture, but for all of Tulsa to embrace, no matter how difficult it is to see. Dr. Crutcher encouraged Tulsans to reflect upon Tulsa’s history — as well as the work needed to continue recognizing the shameful racism that has engulfed the city for over a century.
Mural elevates calls for justice
Mr. Robinson echoed her sentiments, stating that Tulsa still faces challenges in educating citizens about the 1921 Race Massacre. Mr. Robinson also noted that while the Centennial crowd will eventually move on, Tulsa still faces a reckoning over reparations for the three living survivors, Viola Ford “Mother” Fletcher, Lessie Benningfield “Mother” Randle, and Ellis “Uncle Red” Van Hughes, as well as their descendants.
Multifaceted artist Branjae also performed, drawing cheers of joy as well as thoughtful silence as the crowd faced the mural directly for an hour following the unveiling.