Back Forward: Greenwood

5 minutes
Olivia McCourry is Oklahoma Today's summer intern. In Back Forward, she is exploring Oklahoma's past and how it relates to the future.

Oklahoma has been a state only for a short while, but the history it contains before and after statehood is broad, unique, and can also be hurtful. Like most of American history, there are past events that leave scars on our most vulnerable communities. What is important now is how we acknowledge and heal from these incidents. How do we as Okies and even as Americans reckon with our past and make a better future for next generations? This is what I hope to explore as an intern at Oklahoma Today magazine. This blog will explore different historical sites and include all communities in Oklahoma no matter who they are. My goal is to discuss our state’s history, reconciliation with the damage, and goals to keep the conversation going. These moments in history will live on through many generations and it’s important we as a people tell the whole, truthful story.

As last week marked the hundredth anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, I will focus this blog post on the neighborhood of Greenwood. The once famous and prosperous area of Tulsa known as Black Wall Street. To remember one of the greatest acts of racial violence in American history, the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission is hosting events throughout the summer. Each one is designed to educate and remember the community that once thrived there and show how it continues to rebuild.

One way to learn more about the past and present of Greenwood and African American communities is through art. In collaboration with the Gathering Place and the Greenwood Cultural Center, the Kinsey African American Art and History Collection opened its doors on May 22 to showcase prestigious works of African American art and history collections. This traveling exhibition is an award winning collection of African American art and culture that shows the importance of African American history. Viewers can discover all types of contributions and achievements made by the Black community over centuries. The gallery will take you through paintings, photographs, sculptures, and other artwork that highlight struggles and triumphs that date back to 1595. The exhibition will be housed in the ONEOK Boathouse in the Gathering Place and The Greenwood Cultural Center galleries until June 30. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission, Free. (918) 596-1020, greenwoodculturalcenter.org

To fully immerse yourself in the world that once was and is now being rebuilt, Greenwood’s history center, Greenwood Rising, hosted a limited preview opening. The center opened fully on July 2. Greenwood Rising showcases the brand new exhibitions that tells the story of Greenwood and commemorates the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. It also includes Pathway to Hope which is a direct walking route between John Hope Park Reconciliation Park and other sites in the heart of the Greenwood District. This aspect of the center is meant to reconnect a part of the Greenwood district that was bisected by I-244 in the 1960s and '70s. The goal of this path is to acknowledge the displacement of citizens and businesses within the area and encourage healing. June 9-12. Admission, Free, (918) 231-6211, greenwoodrising.org

These two events commemorating a time of struggle and resilience are only a couple of ways to get involved. As our state reckons with our history and begins to heal, it is important to realize that once these centers are built and exhibitions move on, the conversation doesn’t stop. The recognition of the hundredth anniversary is essential to understand our history and how we can educate ourselves to make the future seem brighter. Once the commemoration is over, the world must remember Greenwood as it was and how far it has come since.

Written By
Olivia McCourry

Olivia McCourry
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