The Oklahoma Eagle Editorial
Perhaps much of Tulsa has the forgotten broken promises made to the survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre and subsequent subjugation under the numerous boots of Tulsa; however, the children of the victims remember every cruel lie. Running interference for decades of turning once black-owned land into lucrative land grabs with developers belongs to the Tulsa Development Authority (TDA). Of course, their mission is so ambiguous it satisfies the best and worst motivations of those who deal with the corrupt system.
The mission of the Tulsa Development Authority is to improve Tulsa through programs and projects designed to utilize private and public resources that advance the physical, social, and economic wellbeing of citizens and neighborhoods throughout the City. To that end, our people are the key to realizing that dream.
That mission statement found on the TDA website seems friendly enough however, nothing in that statement said development will be mindful of local feelings. It did not pledge to remember past promises to rebuild the land taken by urban development. No mention was made about making every attempt to keep the land in black hands, preferably the previous owners. True to their mission, they have worked hand-in-hand with outside developers eager to purchase land for financial gain. Today, many might think what is wrong with that; it could bring in jobs. It is not the promised use of the land. It is not the moral use of that land. It is not the just purpose of that land. It is by any definition sacred land. Purchased by hard work against incredible odds, burned to the ground, the owners slain and driven off, and sacred land slowly sold off by municipal landlords in concert with greedy developers. While that may seem harsh, the reality is even more stark and cruel.
There are much longer descriptions of the history of the players and heroes like Homer Johnson. Read the feature article found in the front page of the December 12, 2019 edition of The Oklahoma Eagle. From the vigilant perspectives opined by Ray Pearcey and Eagle Publisher James O. Goodwin where the authors give a detailed history of the sacred land at issue here.
Why is the Greenwood area sacred? The history of Greenwood is tragically paid for with the blood of innocent victims of that storied business district. It started with the Creek Freedmen whose land that makes up Tulsa north. The found sanctuary in those few blocks and some armed with money developed by oil and gas found on their allotments were able to start investing in the area. They were good stewards and along with savvy black entrepreneurs to create what would be known as Black Wall Street. It was largely self-sustaining and prosperous. It was a life few believed was possible. Soon the envious eyes of white supremacists looked north at what their black neighbors had created, seemingly impervious to Jim Crow laws and Klan attacks. It was not like the Klan did not exist. It was thought they were so numerous they occupied every segment of white society like the police, courthouse and city leaders. Then nearly 100 years ago hell on earth erupted and one of the most violent racial incidents occurred on the streets around Greenwood and Archer. That land is sacred not because it was honored but because it earned that mantle that should have been marked by justice as well.
When all attempts and programs had run their course and old men and women were left to remember what was promised to them by Federal officials, few know what painful legacy they had inherited from those that testified. Could it be that the trust violated over a hundred years ago is not easily healed? No trust exists today; worse, too many believe lies and theft are just to be accepted as part of living in Tulsa. For some clues we could return to TDA’s own words:
“Although many players have contributed to the seemingly overnight rebirth of Tulsa’s urban core, the Tulsa Development Authority has been a genuine change agent. Yet few outside city planning offices and property developers may be aware of TDA’s role.
Well they may be showing their hand with that statement. They are “a genuine change agent and few outside city planning offices and property developers may be aware of TDA’s role.” That is no doubt on purpose. They operate in darkness and make deals with no appreciation for the history and injustice committed 100 years ago and every year since. And from TDA’s own words.
The Tulsa Development Authority is rooted in more than 50 years of the City’s history. Formed as the Tulsa Urban Renewal Authority in 1959, it sought to identify, remove and reinvigorate blighted areas through federal funds.
Although the urban renewal funding program ended in 1974, over the decades, the Authority’s role expanded to cover diverse areas including neighborhood improvement, code enforcement, flood area acquisition, and home rehabilitation. Presently, it focuses on land acquisition and sales for targeted economic development.
They make no excuses for their history and expanded powers. By the way it would be nice to see a list of all the rehabilitated homes. Did TDA through neighborhood improvement, code enforcement, and flood area acquisition take more homes than they rehabilitated?
Are we expected one more time to fight for the last scraps of land available for meaningful development? There are potential black developers interested in developing Greenwood and land still held in and around OSU Tulsa.
This is a time to stand up and be heard. Only the righteous voices of the children of the 1921 Race Massacre will break through and change the stranglehold on land once held by elders of Greenwood. Let Tulsa know without question that enough is enough. Send your concerns and thoughts to the City of Tulsa, Attn: Mayor’s Office, 175 E. 2nd St., Tulsa, OK., 74103.
This is the last paper of 2019. We hope you have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from your friends at The Oklahoma Eagle. We will continue to shed light and raise our voices for what is best for our readership.