From the Desk of Corey Booker

 

Today, I was in Tulsa, Oklahoma visiting the community of Greenwood, an area formerly known as Black Wall Street that was destroyed nearly 100 years ago in one of the worst incidents of racial violence in our history.

Throughout my life I’ve heard stories about Greenwood and Black Wall Street and studied the history of this incredible community—but nothing could prepare me for today. As I walked down the streets, I wept. Learning more about the thriving community that once existed and the painful recognition of the scale of what happened here should call to the conscience of any American who cares about her country—because you can’t love your country, if you don’t love your fellow country men and women.

The very ground I walked on was once the site of an act of terrorism—a purposeful attack on an entire community using planes to drop bombs on homes and businesses. The attacks resulted in the murder of 300 Black Americans and the destruction of Black property including over 200 Black-owned businesses. Yet, despite the devastation and ensuing threats and laws designed to keep folks from returning, the community overcame to thrive again.

And so today, I had the honor of speaking in one of those buildings that rose from the ashes, the historic Vernon AME Church. The church was built 100 years ago in 1919, two years before the district was destroyed—its basement the last remaining structure standing on Greenwood Street in the wake of the 1921 massacre. It was the same building where the Sunday following the massacre, congregants, including those who lost their homes and belongings, came to the basement to worship.

I hoped to bring a message of hope and faith.

White supremacy has always been a problem in our American story—if not always at the surface, then lurking not so far beneath it. Racist violence has always been part of the American story, and never more so than in times of transition and rapid social change. Greenwood is a living testimony to those truths.

Today, at a time when hate crimes are on the rise we must remember the power of faith and recommit to fighting back against hate.

Greenwood—my heart aches but today you gave me hope. Stay faithful.