Moving Forward While Confronting Tulsa’s Past

Courtesy City of Tulsa
REVIEWING ARCHAEOLOGICAL FINDINGS: Oklahoma State Archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck shows Mayor G.T. Bynum the latest in the 1921 Graves Physical Investigation Committee’s findings during the test excavation at Oaklawn Cemetery on October 22, 2020.

May 31 and June 1 mark 100 years since the Tulsa Race Massacre, which has left Tulsa with many wounds left untreated. Still, a century later, there remains a sense of disbelief that something so terrible could happen in Tulsa. To make matters worse, the events of 1921 were covered up and kept quiet for many years.  
As Mayor, I am heavily focused on keeping Tulsans safe, developing our economy, and moving Tulsa forward. But to truly move forward, we have to confront our past. Opening old wounds isn’t something many want to do, but doing so is necessary in Tulsa’s case, especially when our wounds from 1921 remain largely unhealed. 
I want Tulsans to know the City is approaching the events of 1921 head-on and as we work to shed more light on this largely forgotten part of Tulsa’s history. Tulsa is a city that is being one of the most transparent in the country when it comes to publicly realizing racial disparities, and then taking steps to address those disparities. In 2018, we announced our investigation into potential mass graves from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. This summer, we will start the exhumation process at Oaklawn Cemetery to uncover a grave shaft with at least 12 remains present, potentially from the Tulsa Race Massacre.  
In communities everywhere, civil order breaks down when hate is allowed to run unchecked and uncontrolled. We see this even today when you look at the level of civic discourse and hatred that people with differing views express toward one another. I want the events of 1921 to serve as a reminder of the tragedy that occurs when we allow this to happen and how we can come together and bridge divides to create a community we can be proud of.
So that our past is not forgotten, community members and donors have come together to open Greenwood Rising, a museum that will tell the story of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Up to this point, the only museum where Tulsa children and adults can learn about the Massacre is located in Washington D.C. at the Smithsonian. I want to thank the community for their work in providing our children and future generations a local museum to learn about our history and spark dialogue for a better Tulsa.
Democracy can only continue and flourish when we have a free and open exchange of ideas, and wounds can only heal when we have an honest discussion and working realization of past events as we look to create a city where everyone has an equal shot at a great life.

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