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Greenwood Cultural Center is making sure Tulsa doesn't forget what happened in May 1921

Posted at 5:41 PM, Nov 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-26 19:09:11-05

The Greenwood Cultural Center is making sure Tulsa doesn't forget what happened on May 31, 1921 when as many as 300 black people died during a race clash between whites and blacks.

"There is still a need for awareness, for education because we still meet people almost every day that visit the Greenwood Cultural Center and say I never heard about this. I didn't hear about this until a few years ago," says Michelle Brown, the center's program coordinator.

She says it's now more important than ever to continue educating the public about that part of history.

"For her to pass being the last survivor that we are aware of, it was painful," says Brown about the recent death of Dr. Olivia Hooker.  

The center has a gallery dedicated to survivors of the massacre with their photo and description underneath. Although Dr. Hooker isn't on the walls due to her move to New York, there are dozens of other faces who also survived the massacre.

Brown says the nonprofit museum is always looking to spread awareness through tours and talks in the community.

"This isn't just about black history. This is a part of our nation's history," says Brown.

Another push to not forget what happened is through Tulsa Police Department's diversity awareness class. They teach all cadets at their training division how history shaped the relations between law enforcement and the public.

"Talking about oral history of different communities from 1920s to 1960s, there is a level of distrust, not necessarily officers, but of that system," explains Captain Karen Tipler, who teaches the diversity class.

She says when she teaches the part on the the race massacre, she makes sure one of the main takeaways for the new up-and-coming officers is that law enforcement did not offer "equal protection to all of the citizens."

Captain Tipler says a culture's perspective is their reality, so what they experienced has been passed down from generation to generation. By teaching cadets of the past, she hopes the same mistakes aren't repeated and that race relations improve in the future.

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