Editor’s be aware: 100 years in the past right this moment, after an try to lynch a Black teenager accused of raping a white lady was stymied, a rabid white mob numbering within the 1000’s descended on the prosperous and predominantly African-American Greenwood neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Over two days, greater than 300 girls, youngsters and males have been murdered by the mob. Additionally, round 800 folks injured and 1000’s of companies, houses and church buildings have been razed to the bottom by bombs dropped from planes and a rampaging horde that included regulation enforcement and members of the KKK.
Largely absent from the historical past books and suppressed in widespread tradition for many years, the 1921 Tulsa race massacre in recent times has change into seen as a milestone for the brutal realities of white supremacy in America. Today seasoned actor Steven G. Norfleet, who appeared within the depiction of the assault in HBO’s Emmy successfulWatchmen, examines the hidden historical past and legacy of Tulsa 1921 in a visitor column for Deadline.
In the acclaimed HBO sequence Watchmen, I painting a WWI veteran attempting to guard his household in the course of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
The inventive workforce of Watchmen fastidiously constructed element after element to painting a real sense of this horrific occasion, displaying gunshots fired at unarmed Black women and men and companies torched whereas folks have been nonetheless in them. From praying earlier than filming such heart-wrenching materials to working via chaos whereas holding my son, performed by Danny Boyd Jr., there was a sense of heaviness on the set that day.
The specifics of dressing the set shortly jogged my memory that, whereas we’re reenacting this occasion for a restricted sequence, what you see within the opening scenes of Watchmen’s first episode completely occurred 100 years in the past. The function opened my eyes on the little information I knew about my very own historical past.
It pressured me to analysis and acknowledge the reality that has purposefully not been informed to us.
Even although I’m reminded of how little Black historical past was taught throughout my youthful years of college, I’m grateful for the people who find themselves now selecting to inform it via leisure. We are in a time the place training and tv are really intertwined, and I imagine it’s the most effective methods to study. Without the information of our historical past, we’re robbed from the muse of understanding easy methods to deal with our future.
Being fully clear, penning this column as we strategy the centennial of the horrors of May 31 and June 1, 1921 in Oklahoma leaves me with a bittersweet feeling.
The sweetness comes from gratitude understanding that what began off as one other appearing job has led to serving to improve the information of our true American historical past for hundreds of thousands all over the world. The bitterness is being reminded that that is our American historical past. That that is the historical past of Black folks and sadly, historical past continues to repeat itself. We shouldn’t need to commemorate the dying of over 300 Black individuals who have been killed merely for being Black and profitable. We must be visiting a still-standing Black Wall Street the place our Black ancestors created alternatives for themselves, and generations to return saved the Greenwood neighborhood thriving.
Our historical past is Viola Fletcher, a dwelling survivor of the Tulsa Race Massacre who lately testified in entrance of a House subcommittee praying for justice to in the future be served. Our historical past is the African American males who fought in WWI for his or her nation; a rustic crammed with racism and hatred in the direction of Black folks.
Our historical past holds the facility to assist our brothers and sisters right this moment to battle for change, battle for justice, battle for what’s and must be proper. People like Stacey Abrams who swallowed her governor’s race defeat in 2018 and poured her soul into preventing for the rights of voters in Georgia and elsewhere. Ben Crump who tirelessly has been preventing for victims of racial and police brutality reminiscent of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. They are the examples of Black Wall Street.
I do discover some success seeing this nation remembering the lives misplaced in the course of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. I pray the victims and the households of the victims have discovered some peace in understanding our nation is lastly shinning a lightweight on what has been solely briefly examined. My want is for this mild to develop brighter and brighter. Brighter into the various cities the place comparable occasions have occurred. Then even brighter into the eyes of the individuals who must see such unjust. We ought to by no means draw back from what’s true and what’s undeniably true is historical past.
I need to thank each single Black one who paved the way in which for me. The docs and legal professionals of Black Wall Street are kings and queens in my eyes.
I may solely think about how lovely the Greenwood neighborhood was of so many shades of Black and Brown. Recognizing the horrific second is vital however remembering what the neighborhood was and represented earlier than it was destroyed is simply as vital, if no more. The historical past of Black folks comes with lots of scars however definitely it’s joined with lots of pleasure. This as soon as wealthy neighborhood can present what’s able to being born once more. We can come collectively and construct environments of profitable Black individuals who need nothing extra however to help one another.
With alternatives to find out about our historical past, we should study from it as effectively. We should problem ourselves to verify such infuriating moments by no means repeat. Individually, we must be checking if we’re contributing in the direction of the options of America’s issues; and realizing there are quite a few methods to play your half. Recording police brutality, casting your vote, supporting your native Black companies, these are just some methods to maintain the legacy of Black Wall Street afloat. Having these exhausting conversations with individuals who might not suppose such as you is pivotal to serving to change the perspective of somebody who merely
simply might not know higher. What might seem as a small step may assist create the staircase to true change.
I take satisfaction in penning this piece with the hope it fuels you to analysis extra, pay attention extra, listen extra to what’s been occurring for over 100 years. Me expressing my gratitude to the Oklahoma faculties who’re preventing to show their college students of the Tulsa Massacre can lead you to make a distinction.
Mentioning Carlos Moreno’s new guide The Victory of Greenwood might lead you to purchase it as soon as it drops, questioning what else about this historic metropolis has but to be acknowledged. This one article you might be studying could be the explanation you google “1921 Tulsa Race Massacre” and that alone is progress.
Now being within the days that mark 100 years since racism and bigotry struck Tulsa in full and deadly pressure, let’s acknowledge the grief and ache from remembering this second and the power in understanding we is not going to enable this to ever occur once more.