Tulsa Race Riot Centennial Commission Makes Educating Youth its First Priority

TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) -- Right now, the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Centennial Commission is preparing for the 100-year anniversary.

The Greenwood District was once the wealthiest black neighborhood in the country, but it burned to the ground in 1921 during a riot often forgotten about in the history books.

In the coming years, the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Centennial Commission plans to update the Greenwood District, putting it on the registry of historical places and creating an office space there so people can get involved. Their first priority is educating young people about what happened.

State Senator Kevin Matthews founded the commission and is also chair of the commission.

“This centennial will be a healing point for our city and our state,” he said. “We need to turn that tragedy into triumph and it needs to be around education.”

To do this the commission has made Rev. Jamaal Dyer project manager, seeing his passion to educate others.

“Sadly, I’ve talked to a lot of people, a lot of millennials, a lot of people in our generation who are very much unaware of these events that took place,” he said. “Our goal is to make sure everybody is aware.”

That’s why they are working with the state superintendent to develop a curriculum for school districts in Oklahoma, using kits and books to make the subject easier to teach.

“We want everybody to be educated,” said Dyer. “It makes no sense for you to live in Tulsa, be from Tulsa, go to the Tulsa Public School system or Tulsa Schools period and not have any knowledge of what took place here in your home city.”

The work is just beginning to get ready for the 100th year anniversary.

“This is a start and we think that it is important for our healing in our city, our state and our community,” said Matthews.

They hope to continue to accomplish their goals by 2021.

The commission plans to have their curriculum in schools by the first of the year.

They just launched their website allowing anyone to get involved in various committees and projects to get ready for the centennial.

The commission also plans to build an archway at the corner of Greenwood and Archer to attract more foot traffic to the Greenwood District.