TULSA, Okla. — Librarians at the Tulsa Library System are keeping the City's past alive by connecting it to Tulsa's future leaders.
Students and members across Tulsa County are getting their last hours of studying in before Thursday's Annual African American Heritage Bowl.
For 26 years, the Heritage Bowl has been an academic competition used to teach Tulsa's youth about key events and people in African American history. This year, librarians who put on the event are featuring the 1921 Race Massacre for the competition.
“That was huge. That was major, and if it had not happened, we would be a whole different town right now," said Adrienne Teague, Heritage Bowl coordinator. “If you don’t know history, you’re bound to repeat it, and I think it's important for us to know what happened so we can make sure it doesn’t happen again."
Just last week, legislation made teaching the 1921 Race Massacre mandatory in Oklahoma classrooms.
African American Resource Center coordinator Alicia Latimer says she knows many classrooms have not been teaching this part of Tulsa's past, because of her daily talks with students at the Rudisill Regional Library.
“Students didn’t know and that was horrifying to me," Latimer said. After doing her own research, she heard why.
“It's a tragedy for someone to say ‘I’m not going to teach you history, because it might make you unhappy,'" Latimer said. "We don't omit the World Wars and the Holocaust."
“History is history regardless," Teague said. “It’s heartbreaking to learn about what happened right here and why and who was involved, but we all should know it."
Until just last week, teaching the massacre was optional in Oklahoma classrooms.
So, for the first time, the Tulsa Library is using the Heritage Bowl to give students and the community a way to learn this key part of our history.
“A person that is armed with knowledge is more effective and can be a more effective warrior for change and for the good," Latimer said. "This competition will make the information stick in their heads."
The librarians say that change can start with a small book containing 200 questions and answers about the 1921 Race Massacre. Multiple members of the library and Race Massacre experts worked together to put together the booklet.
"We did a large amount of research, we looked at book after eyewitness statements, videos, going online," Latimer said. "There are eyewitness accounts and every question has a reference book you can read."
For native Tulsans of color, the reference booklet is also designed to empower and encourage.
“The way the study guide is written is to show that the black community did not just wait for it to happen. The defended their property. They defended their people They didn't just stand around and wait to get shot." Teague said. “Systemic racism is very quiet, you can't put your finger on it especially when you are 14,15 years old. But this situation, the Race Massacre is facts and its real and there’s pictures and it gives them a frame of reference, because there are micro-aggressions they deal with every day is just small form of what happened in that."
The Librarians hope that when participants leave the competition this year, they will leave with a knowledge and background of Tulsa to improve it in the future.
"There is a lesson to be learned about empathy, about continued pain and suffering, emotional trauma that these students need to understand and be able to explain to future generations," Latimer said.
The Heritage bowl is tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Rudisill Library.
Its open for the public to watch the competition. The middle school and high school first place teams will win an Amazon Fire tablet.
1921 Race Massacre Fact Books are available for free at the Rudisill Library.
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