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Centennial Commission Commemorates 99th Anniversary of Tulsa Race Massacre in Virtual Event

University of Tulsa

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission hosted a virtual commemoration Sunday of the 99th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre.

On June 1, 1921, a white mob continued looting and burning Black Wall Street. The attack destroyed 35 city blocks, and the death toll is still unknown.

They were joined by Damon Lindelof, creator of the HBO series "Watchmen," which opens with the race massacre. As the character Will Reeves says, Lindelof said wounds need air.

"The more we talk about Greenwood, the more air we give to its memory. In remembering the massacre, we must also remember what was massacred. Black Wall Street was not just a devastating loss but an historic achievement," Lindelof said.

"Watchmen" introduced many Americans to the Tulsa Race Massacre, which only recently became part of Oklahoma's public school curriculum. 

"Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced," Centennial Commission Project Director Phil Armstrong said, quoting James Baldwin.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said facing the city’s ugly past is the goal when a search for mass graves from the massacre put off because of the pandemic resumes.

"And so, we hope as we pursue the truth in this search for the graves moving forward, that we will continue to uncover truth, and that we will report it to history as it really happened, and that it will help us as a city grow and do better by all Tulsans," Bynum said.

Brenda Alford’s grandparents fled Greenwood with her aunt, then a 2-year-old girl, as a white mob razed their neighborhood. Alford repeated words of her aunt, Cecelia Nails Palmer.

"There’s no such thing as standing still when change comes and all traditions are destroyed. When we have no past, we have no future," Alford said.

The commission also held a small candlelight vigil Sunday night.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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