July Road Notes, Day 8: Reconciliation

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July 12, 2021, Memphis- Over the years, I’ve been in places which have shaken my conscience and sense of justice: Wounded Knee, Silver Creek, Bosque Redondo, the Holocaust Museum of Jerusalem, Donjon de Jeanne d’Arc, the Concentration Camp at Berga. This morning’s visit to Greenwood District, on Tulsa’s North Side, had a very similar effect.

I began the morning in the Cathedral District, on the south side of Tulsa’s downtown. It is majestic, in a physical sense, with spires abounding-and not so much competing, as complementing one another. I present a few of these:

First United Methodist Church, Tulsa
Holy Family Cathedral, Tulsa
First Presbyterian Church, Tulsa
No spires, but still impressive: Church of Christ, Scientist, Tulsa

One must eat and drink, so I looked a bit, in the Cathedral District, and found this gem:

Foolish Things Coffee House!

Interior of Foolish Things Coffee House

After giving downtown its due, I headed to the sacred area that drew me to Tulsa, in the first place: Greenwood Historic District.

The signature mural of Greenwood District
Greenwood Cultural Center

The whole point of Greenwood’s emergence, in the early Twentieth Century, was to promote the very self-sufficiency, among Black Americans, that capitalists claimed to want. Yet, Oklahoma Governor Robertson, and his minions, including the commander of the Oklahoma National Guard, were complicit in the plan to put an end to “Black Wall Street”. All they needed was a spark. On May 31, 1921, it was reported that a black shoe shine man had brushed up against a white elevator operator, leading to allegations of attempted rape. Further, the founder of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, seeing a chance to destroy his competition, accused the Mann Brothers, who operated a highly successful grocery store, of fomenting a riot, when a group of black businessmen went to the Courthouse, to seek the shoe shine man’s release. The allegations of D.W. Gurley led to a white mob’s attack on black-owned businesses. These allegations were later shown to be false, and Gurley fled to California. Ironically, the Mann family had come to Greenwood from Sherman, Texas, which later itself endured an assault on black-owned businesses. National Guard General Charles Barrett, as well as the editor-in-chief of the Tulsa Tribune, stoked white anger from behind the scenes. It is not verified, but there is circumstantial evidence that Barrett gave the go-ahead for the use of airplanes, which did fire on blacks who were trying to flee Greenwood.

Scene of Greenwood destruction, June 1, 1921

Dozens of Greenwood residents were killed, and most of the rest were rendered homeless, by the destruction. The bottom line, though, in all this is: Greenwood is coming back. The block which earned the title Black Wall Street is small, but vibrant.

Fountain, on grounds of Greenwood Cultural Center

The Vernon African Methodist Evangelical Church was a key gathering place in Greenwood, and is so again.

Mural, on south wall of Greenwood Open Air gathering space

Wanda J’s Restaurant is also a gathering place for the Greenwood community. It was closed for renovation today, but the sign says it’ll reopen tomorrow.

Mural on berm of overpass, Greenwood District

After walking around Greenwood District, I paused to watch several children who had climbed up the overpass berm, and were now helping each other down, flip-flops and all, under their father’s watchful eyes. When the kids had descended, I noted this mural, of jazz musicians.

Tulsa, and Greenwood, are still here and the city is making amends. Reparations for the families of the victims are actually being discussed. Reconciliation Park, and Street, are set aside, to remind everyone that, when one group prospers, all may prosper.

All Steamed Up and On A Rampage

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October 8, 2020-

No, not me. I have actually not been as calm and clear-headed as I am today, for quite some time. Feeling part of a group that accomplished a sizeable amount of work, in two weeks’ time, has a lot to do with my own composure.

The news that at least thirteen men, one of whom doesn’t even live in Michigan, have been arrested in connection with a plot to kidnap that state’s governor, is a prime example of the frame of reference for the title of this post.

Riots and mayhem have been the province of both Far Right and Far Left groups, at various points in our nation’s history. Tulsa, Chicago and Hayneville, AL saw the former group exercise its muscle, in the mid-Twentieth Century. Los Angeles, New York and Washington, DC-among several other cities, saw upheavals from the latter group, in the 1960’s. It is a fair argument that the White attacks on Black Wall Street and the loud demands for continuance of racial segregation had much to do with setting the stage for the urban riots of the 1960s, ’70s and 1992. The earlier White rampages reinforced attitudes of intolerance and separation that, left alone, would have started to fade and gradually be replaced by more fair-minded attitudes, across racial lines.

Spending two weeks serving a primarily African-American populace certainly strengthened my own feelings of love and equanimity towards a woefully misunderstood community. I saw mostly a high level of patience and love coming from our clientele. When anger was expressed, I daresay it was justified. In every case, we were able to address and resolve the issue, not once sweeping it aside.

End of digression. I see a lot of people of European descent, and more than a few from other demographics, fulminating at what they perceive as a combination of the social order’s collapse and a witchhunt against the current president. He has been microanalyzed, as his last six precessors were, by the Mainstream Media, AND he is partially hoist of his own petard-as several of his predecessors also were.

None of the above facts will stop people, who are highly frustrated and feeling discounted, from acting out in an even more extreme manner. It may well not be just homegrown anarchists and paid foreign actors committing mayhem in the streets, come later in the Fall and through January.

This is why it is vital to take Joe Biden at his word, that he will be the President of supporter and opponent alike, should he win the election, next month. It is even more vital to insist that Donald Trump-and his potential replacement, Mike Pence, follow the same ethic. They could very well still be re-elected.It is vital that all life is honoured, by all four candidates.

It is also imperative that corporate interests, including medical research enterprises, refrain from manipulating women who seek empowerment (This means YOU, Planned Parenthood), stop lobbying against legitimate scientific research and start putting the needs of the people over reckless seeking of profits.

It is essential, also, that people see each other as one family-even if that means occasional squabbles and smoothing one another’s rough edges. I am from two large families and there are plenty of progressives, conservatives- and moderates, like me, in the mix. We have, for the most part, come to a consensus of love trumping ideology. If we can do this, so can many, if not most, other people.

It’s time to stop the rumble.