Search For Mass Grave Continues

What has always seemed so tragic and improbable about the Tulsa Race Massacre was never determining just how many lives were lost during the 1921 atrocity. Even more incredible was the wide range of the estimates. Tulsa was no doubt not excited about publicizing how evil they were at that time. One of the Tulsa daily newspapers had a headline which called for more death using a disgusting slur. In most records the headline has been cut out. In one way the history of how many died that day has also been conveniently cut out. Perhaps in the coming days a better estimate of how many died will be determined.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum is following up on a promise he made to himself to find the truth about the possibility of a mass grave. So-called official reports as few as 20 blacks killed and 10 whites. Eyewitnesses report truck loads of dead African Americans being driven out. Reports of nearly 40 black grave diggers were hired to bury dead blacks in unmarked graves. And the on-going rumors of a mass grave. None has been found, however not every place suspected of being a spot for the mass grave has been examined.

Bynum and former city councilman Jack Henderson worked on where possible sites could be and they turned the results to the Tulsa Race Riot Commission. Nothing was done. There was still an element that wanted what was at the time called the Tulsa Race Riot to be swept under the rug and forgotten. Perhaps there still those who would just like to see 1921 placed into the dumpster of history. However, people of good will like Bynum and Henderson understand this scar on Tulsa is still a wound so long as so many important questions are unanswered.

The problem with unresolved wounds is that they can fester and get worse. Bynum understands this effort may not answer all questions, however the attempt to try is healing. For that, Bynum and everyone involved with this effort are to be congratulated and supported.

Beauty Supply Store At War With Community

Saturday morning at a protest at Anna & Jun’s Beauty supply, 1605 N. Peoria Ave., violence was once again the option taken to address a previous assault according to police reports. It’s time for the police to get serious about restoring order and bringing to justice those who illegally speak with their fists.

In August of this year April Harding was assaulted, and the incident was caught on camera of the owner Changseok Jun of the beauty supply store punching her in the face over some problems in the store. This time an employee drove near a protester Alvin Barnett and she rolled down the window of her vehicle and pepper sprayed him in the face. Two other people exited the vehicle and assaulted Barnett before driving off. Jun was due in court September for the initial assault charge.

The woman who allegedly pepper sprayed Barnett called police and wanted to fill out a police report, she completed a witness statement then decided to climb out a back window and left the complex. If this is true, it paints a picture of a situation that has gotten completely out of control.

Its time for cool heads to prevail and for arbitration to take place. Violence will solve nothing, but for the assaults, the rule of law should prevail. No one has the right to strike another just because they don’t like what you are doing. Time for justice to address the initial complaints.

Protesters have a right to voice their serious concerns. They have a right to expect to be safe from harm in exercising their right to free speech.

Clara Luper: A Profile In Courage

The Mother of the Oklahoma Civil Rights Movement, Clara Luper will be remembered for her historic act of courage. Her bravery occurred  at an Oklahoma City lunch counter where she and a group of students participated in the first lunch counter sit-in. This year marks the 60th anniversary of that historic event. It is well worth remembering.

Many living today remember the days of segregation. Separate schools, water fountains, housing, and eating were just a few of the ways African Americans were denied the promises of our founding documents of all people being equal. In real terms an African American took their life into their own hands if they merely sat in the wrong place, drank from the wrong water fountain or even spoke up for themselves.

Luper in 1958 went to New York City to perform her play on Martin Luther King in what must have been an uplifting experience. But, it paled to being able to sit at a lunch counter in New York City and order lunch free of hatred. It was in that simple moment that she realized what she and the NAACP Youth Council who traveled with her to present the play must do. They had to order lunch in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. An act that is played out today without a thought millions of times a day but was never done in Oklahoma at the time. And no one knew what would happen once they sat in their chairs and ordered lunch.

Luper’s 7-year-old daughter Marilyn Luper Hildreth came up with the idea of just going to Katz Drug Store and order some cheeseburgers. Luper along with two other chaperons and 13 children walked into the drug store on August 19, 1958. They ordered food and were refused of course. They were also spat on and taunted with racial jeers. They left but they came back. On the third day Katz relented and served the nonviolent protestors. They only wanted a hamburger and be treated with dignity. Katz soon ended their practice of segregation in their 38 stores spread across four states. It was the first lunch counter sit-in held in the United States.

Luper is being honored for her courage and the bravery of the rest of her participants. The youngest was five years old. Luper died in 2011 at the age of 88 and lived a full life pursuing justice and equality. She was one of the first to recognize the gross disparity in sentences and numbers of African Americans in prison.

Perhaps in the spirit of Luper all Oklahomans can join and end the racist practice of sending too many people of color to prison. Oklahoma incarcerates more people per capita than any other place on earth. Oklahoma needs a Luper like effort to end this practice.

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