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Mostly White Tulsa Churches Paint 'Black Lives Matter' Messages on Their Properties

Matt Trotter

Several predominately white Tulsa churches have painted "Black Lives Matter" messages on their properties.

At least four churches painted their messages Wednesday, four years to the day after a white Tulsa police officer shot and killed Terence Crutcher, an unarmed Black man. More are expected to paint "Black Lives Matter" on their properties in the coming days.

"The gathered clergy and leaders of predominately white churches in our city stand collectively to acknowledge and apologize for the silence and in some cases the complicity of the white churches in the racism that has existed and exists today in Tulsa," Trinity Episcopal Church Associate Rector Cheryl Harder said at a Wednesday news conference next to a painting in the parking lot of All Souls Unitarian Church.

Clergy from a variety of churches and synagogues said Black Lives Matter should not be a controversial statement, and the paintings symbolize the work they are prepared to do to address racism.

The Rev. Dr. Rodney Goss of Morningstar Baptist Church said throughout his life, he hasn’t seen the social, policy and policing changes needed. He hopes the churches’ paintings show it’s not just the Black community calling for change now.

"Folks would rather listen to a harmonic song than someone just making a lot of noise. This is why this is so very helpful and beneficial to our cause is because it says it’s bigger than just a Black perspective. It’s no longer a minority thing, it’s a human issue," Goss said.

The messages are painted in yellow block letters, just like the one on Greenwood Avenue that the City of Tulsa will let be removed during an upcoming street project. Bishop Carlton Pearson calls the Greenwood mural’s removal a slap in the face, especially in light of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

"It says, 'You niggers stay in your place.' That’s the way we read it. 'Not in Tulsa. We’re not having it in Tulsa. You’re not putting Black' — it’d be different if we were putting it someplace other than Greenwood," Pearson said. "That’s our street. That’s where the massacre took place. It’s an insult."

The Greenwood mural was vandalized at one point but repainted. Clergy and supporters at All Souls Unitarian Church were asked what they’d do if that happened at the churches.

"Repaint," they said in unison.

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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