TULSA, Okla. — We are just weeks away from the opening of Greenwood Rising, a state-of-the-art history center honoring the legacy of Black Wall Street both before and after the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
2 News' Julie Chin tells us there is a space in downtown Tulsa anyone can visit right now that not only shares this part of Tulsa history but promotes healing through faith.
First Baptist Church in downtown Tulsa is just a few blocks away from the site of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Newspaper and Red Cross reports say that back then, the Church opened a room for massacre victims seeking refuge.
Now, 100 years later, the Church is opening a new room to promote understanding, healing, and prayer.
"Let's pray over the past. Let's pray about the present. Let's pray for the future."
Down the halls of First Baptist, just beyond three doors, is a special sanctuary inviting all to listen, learn, and reflect.
“The goal of this room is to offer a space and place to talk to God and pray against the sin of racism that exists in our culture, that exists in our churches, and still exists in the human heart."
Pastor Deron Spoo is collaborating with the Tulsa Historical Society and Centennial Commission to create this room for 121 days of prayer.
This space is telling the story of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre through historical records, newspaper accounts, and artifacts like a Red Cross pin dating back to 1921.
“Without the Red cross so many more people would have died or their lives would have been affected more negatively than it already was," says Spoo. "And so we have an entire wall devoted to the red cross and what they did."
The room is divided into six sections with four of them being dedicated to guided prayer.
Visitors can take an audio tour, narrated by Phil Armstrong, a long-time friend of Spoo and current project director for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission.
“The script Darren and the staff here at First Baptist would send it to me to review for historical accuracy. I pulled in Hannibal Johnson who’s written 10 books on the subject just to make sure that everything that is referenced has accuracy,” says Armstrong.
Everyone learns about the Race Massacre survivors here and is given green cards to make their struggles, yours.
“This was a card given to survivors in 1921. It was really meant to calm a white community that if everyone had these badges on, they were a mark of shame," says Spoo. "So we wear these cards today to identify with these survivors, but you also get to hear more of their story. At the end of the tour, you also get to put a face and a name with this particular event.”
The tour typically takes 20 to 30 minutes.
While there is no charge to visit, people can leave a donation for Greenwood Rising. First Baptist pledges to match up to $5,000.
“We don’t know all that our church did 100 years ago, but it’s important to us to be involved in Greenwood Rising because I want people 100 years from now to know what we did, and I want to send a clear and unmistakable message,” says Spoo.
A message that includes hope and healing through prayer.
“This is just the beginning. This is the beginning of continual remembrance, but not just remembrance, but it is the beginning of a future hope that we have better, we have better days ahead of us than we have behind us,” Armstrong says.
The prayer room is free and open to the public Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. It runs through June 1.
If you are unable to visit the church, anyone can still take part in this experience from home. The full audio tour is available now on First Baptist's website.
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