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GREENWOOD Dist.–Black History Saturdays, a program that offers free classes on the first Saturday of every month, along with Archaeology Night Live on Zoom during the last Friday of each month, featured an engaging archeology curriculum led by National Geographic Explorer, Dr. Alicia D. Odewale, at BS Roberts Park in Greenwood on Saturday, June 3rd.

As one of the few Black archaeologists in the country, Dr. Odewale spearheaded a research project called Mapping the Historical Trauma of Tulsa. The project aims to digitally map historical sites in Tulsa and uncover artifacts through collaborative archeology.

Black History Saturdays in Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District on Saturday, June 3, 2023. (Courtesy of Kristi Williams)

During this recent session for Black History Saturdays, Dr. Odewale provided instruction on sifting, artifact processing, and community outreach through a series of interactive stations and activities, catering to participants of all ages, from pre-K to adults.

Dr. dives deep into the soil for Black History Saturdays

The event drew an impressive turnout, with 118 participants in attendance. Attendees had the opportunity to practice using brushes to uncover simulated artifacts and utilize waterproof notebooks, like those used by professional archaeologists. Participants also engaged in discussions centered on historical photographs taken in the Greenwood District and examined a collection of authentic artifacts unearthed during the Mapping the Historical Trauma of Tulsa research project.

Photo courtesy of Kristi Williams

Kristi Williams, Tulsa Race Massacre descendant and the founder of Black History Saturdays, expressed her vision of integrating a diverse range of topics into the program’s curriculum. “What I wanted to do when I first started Black History Saturday’s was to combine Black history, archaeology, storytelling and restorative justice all together,” Williams told The Black Wall Street Times.

She further emphasized that the recent session brought to fruition the knowledge gained by participants through the Archaeology Night Live sessions. Williams remarked, “The participants have been learning about archaeology and Black History since February. They were able to put some of their skills to the test to actually go out in the field and do the work in Greenwood, on sacred land.” 

Fighting against bans on Black History

Williams revealed that her motivation to launch Black History Saturdays was further heightened by the passing of HB 1775, which limits discussions on race, racism and its contemporary impacts in Oklahoma’s public education system.

She firmly believes that teaching Black individuals about their history holds immense significance, and the signing of HB 1775 by Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt restricts educators from providing an accurate historical narrative, while disregarding the identity of Black people. “By removing that opportunity in our school system we are asking Black people to deny who they are,” Williams asserted. 

Photo courtesy of Kristi Williams

Through the implementation of Black History Saturdays Williams has gained a unique perspective on the suppression of Black educators in their classrooms. “It has been so liberating for our Black educators to give them the autonomy to teach within this framework, because we forget that educators have been oppressed in this process too,” Williams said.

She firmly advocates that the knowledge Black teachers possess, which they pass on to the next generation, should be highly valued. “It is just so amazing to see the quality of education that they’re giving to our community. We have to pour into our young folks,” Williams said.

Descendants of survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre join classes 

She also highlighted that many Black History Saturdays participants, like herself, are descendants of the Tulsa Race Massacre, underscoring the heightened importance of uncovering their history.

“On Saturday it just kind of came full circle to them as to why we’re doing what we’re doing, and how important it is to know about the land that we walk on, and what’s underneath it, because it’s telling a story that hasn’t been documented,” Williams shared. 

Reflecting on her collaboration with fellow descendants, Williams expressed immense fulfillment. “It is powerful seeing these families and educators come together to learn,” she said.

Looking ahead, Williams intends to continue organizing Black History Saturdays events on the first Saturday of every month, culminating in November with a Black History Academic Bowl. Following the holiday season, Black History Saturdays will resume in February of the coming year, hoping to expand their activities and content through the support of generous donations.

To learn more about Black History Saturdays, visit their website.