By Louis Gray
Eagle Staff Writer
Promises to people of color in Tulsa have rarely been kept, however there is still time to right the wrongs over land development in and around the Greenwood district. The only thing standing in the way is a willingness to do the right thing. Tulsa Development Authority (TDA) is the now unneeded caretaker of the surplus property found in areas near the old Black Wall Street.
That land was the scene of the 1921 Race Massacre and devastation after a white mob invaded Tulsa north. Torching, killing and bombing an area that was once thriving. With the 100-year anniversary fast approaching there is time to reverse the damage created.
To be sure, the land was torched, and despite being insured, the policies were not honored. It was stolen. Once redeveloped with what little resources were left, it was razed by urban renewal using imminent domain. Promises made to redevelop the area were broken.
Part of the duties as found in the strategic plan is “Assemble and sell surplus land and properties owned by TDA and assist in selling those owned by City of Tulsa, to create opportunities for revitalization.” Sounds like a good idea and a proper goal. Of course, if TDA sold and developed all their property there would be nothing more for them to do and would perhaps cease to exist. As with other outdated bureaucracies like the Bureau of Indian Affairs, they have outlived their usefulness. There was a time when there were few African American entrepreneurs who had the capital and expertise to develop Tulsa north. That is no longer the case.
At the time of the massacre, many of the successful business families saw what happened and left the area. That loss of talent and capital left Tulsa north with a lack of highly skilled black professionals. To be sure, there were others who stayed to rebuild, but there is no way of knowing what would have happened if everyone stayed.
Of course, it’s not just TDA in possession of land that was stolen. The OSU Tulsa campus was once promised to be an economic boom to the Greenwood area when Langston University at Tulsa was created to fulfill its urban mission. If it wasn’t for Langston there never would have been a UCAT, UCT or OSU Tulsa campus. Through all of its incarnations, Langston has remained although they have been pummeled into a corner by the powerful OSU presence. There is undeveloped land near the campus that would be perfect for several projects including the Race Massacre museum/reconciliation center.
The opportunity is there to truly redevelop the Greenwood area using market driven proposals and innovative museum plans that will return once stolen land back into black hands to develop for the future. However, it has never been easy to loosen the grip of the powerful to do the right thing. However, this could be the year with enough pressure from the community.