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Despite state leaders’ attempts to stifle critical discussions on race and society in the classroom, a new museum partnership exposes young students to the history of the Tulsa Race Massacre and the Oklahoma City bombing, in an effort to educate against hate.
Road to Remembrance is a new partnership between the Greenwood Rising museum, the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, Arvest Foundation and Arvest Bank. The mission is to bus students from Oklahoma City and Tulsa to the two respective museums in order to make sure a new generation fully understands their history and how hatred can lead to violence.
“In a time when there’s political rhetoric around teaching hard stories, we believe these two stories can be taught,” said Kari Watkins, president and CEO of the Oklahoma City National Memorial during a virtual press conference on Friday.
On April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City experienced the effects of domestic terrorism firsthand when a bomb exploded at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building killing 168 people, injuring hundreds, and changing lives forever.
Museum histories of Tulsa Massacre and Oklahoma City bombing to unite
From May 31 – June 1, 1921, the historic Black business district known as Black Wall Street and 36 square blocks of the Historic Greenwood District was destroyed by a white mob, leaving thousands homeless, hundreds injured, and upwards of 300 men, women and children killed in the Tulsa Race Massacre.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma led a nationwide backlash against teaching about systemic racism when it passed HB 1775, a law that bans educators from teaching students to feel guilty about their race or what members of their race have done in the past. The law has led to confusion, resignations, and the downgrading of schools deemed in violation of the vague law.
“Are we gonna learn from history or just continue down the road and repeat history?” Greenwood Rising interim director Phil Armstrong said on Friday.
The Road to Remembrance program will begin in the coming weeks and start with ninth-grade students from OKC’s Douglass High School, and Tulsa’s Booker T. Washington High School, two renowned, historically Black Oklahoma schools.
An “eye-opening” educational experience
The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum already offers buses to drive students to their site. After a conversation between Kari Hicks and Phil Armstrong, the mission to collaborate began. Thanks to financial support from Arvest Bank and Arvest Foundation, the launch of the program will begin this fall.
“This project, it’s gonna be an eye-opening educational experience for many students and we’re super excited about that,” said Kirk Hays, President of Arvest Bank in Tulsa.
Ron Witherspoon, President of Arvest Bank in Oklahoma City, said he experienced the power of visiting the two museums with friends and family. “Think about the impact” it could have on young people who may be unfamiliar with these stories, he said on Friday.
“If we can catch these young minds at such an early age, maybe we have an opportunity to make a difference.”
Organizers will announce the first day of the program in the coming weeks.