The Skies Opened Up and Devastation Followed

As I started writing blogs for this course, I felt that I had to write about youth since my entire job surrounds the wellbeing of youth and young adults.  But that was not the case and so I have spread my wings and writing hand.

The past weeks have been filled with news of the pandemic which we thought was the worst thing.  Then the news from the United States started flooding our television and every thread online.  Images of death, of protests, of destruction of property, of government leaders bickering with each other.  One story that a friend of mine had posted rocked me to the core and I researched the story.  It was complex, it was a story of a phoenix rising from the ashes and it was a story of incredible deceit, pain and death.  It appeared, as an article, in the Smithsonian Magazine that reported the story as “a long lost manuscript of a searing eyewitness account of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.”  The manuscript was written by a lawyer named Buck Colburn Franklin.  I can put the article into a short synopsis, but we must start with the back story.

President Lincoln liberated the African American slaves on January 1, 1863 but due to the Civil War, the liberation took time and it was only halfway through 1865 that it had been enforced.  Many were not happy with this as plantations and farms lost their slave labour and for generations, slaves had been viewed as subhuman and that belief was the hardest to reform thus, tensions continued into the next century.

There was an area of Tulsa that many African Americans had move to, gladly given to them as it was deemed worthless land (until oil was discovered on it).  They set up their shops and places of business, said to be in excess of 300 establishments.  It thrived and many of these people prospered, were highly educated, had beautiful homes, cars, family outings and back yard get-togethers.  It was the Greenwood district but was referred to as the Black Wall Street.

A white woman made a complaint (which she later rescinded) against a black man and he was arrested.  As he declared his innocence repeatedly, a mob gathered, wanting a lynching and riots ensued as the man’s friends tried to protect him.  The authorities were told that black people were attacking white people and so the authorities arrived with the idea to beat down the African Americans.  Homes were looted, homes were set on fire and businesses destroyed.

Now to Mr. Franklin, noted lawyer who, with his partners, had their offices in the heart of Black Wall Street. He tells of leaving his office and seeing buildings and people on fire and it was coming from the sky.  Private planes were fire bombing from above and plowing people down with machine guns.  Within two days, 35 city blocks were destroyed, 1200 homes were razed and 300 people dead.  Martial Law was declared, and the National Guard was called out.  As many as six thousand were detained, some for up to eight days.  Although post cards of the riots and the results of those riots were distributed to instill fear, Mr. Franklin did set up his offices in a Red Cross tent to continue his business, but many other businesses did not return, and the homes were not rebuilt. This piece of history does not appear in many history books in school.

According to Wikipedia about the Tulsa Race Riots Commission, “there was an effort toward public education about these events through the process. The Commission’s final report, published in 2001, said that the city had conspired with the mob of white citizens against black citizens; it recommended a program of reparations to survivors and their descendants.  The state passed legislation to establish some scholarships for descendants of survivors, encourage economic development of Greenwood, and develop a memorial park in Tulsa to the massacre victims. The park was dedicated in 2010. In 2020, the massacre became part of the Oklahoma school curriculum.”  It should be noted that three hundred scholarships were issued to descendants of the massacre, but no cash reparations have been awarded to the families or the survivors of the massacre.

Having read this account, I thought of the riots and protests continuing today.   I saw an item on the news and followed up the story at A few weeks ago, a woman with her dog, was in Central Park and the dog was unleashed.  An African American man, Mr. Christian Cooper, was bird watching and he told her about the leash law in the park.  She said she would call the police and claim Mr. Cooper was threatening to kill her, and, she did.  She made a frantic call to ensure the reaction of the authorities when they would arrive. (Mr. Cooper recorded the entire scene on his phone).  As she stood there and lied, she was holding the dog by his collar and the dog was trying to fight this type of hold.   Fortunately, the police saw the recording.  She surrendered her dog to the ASPCA and lost her job at an investment firm.    But what if he had not record it?  The girl in the elevator that lodged the story that set the Tulsa Race Riot Massacre in motion claimed she had been attacked and that story ended in devastation. This story could have had a very different, very sad ending if not for that recording.   ABC News reports “Efforts to intimidate Black people by threatening to call law enforcement draw on a long, violent and painful history.”  ABC News also reported that “The Central Park Civic Association condemns this behavior and is calling on Mayor de Blasio to impose a lifetime ban on this lady for her deliberate, racial misleading of law enforcement and violating behavioral guidelines set so that all can enjoy our city’s most famous park, Association president Michael Fischer said.” With this in the news, have you thoughts on this woman’s actions?

Affirmative action has begun but is it enough, and, if so, is it too late?  The pandemic is still out there and, maybe, it has given people a new perspective on how they live and what they do.  In times of crisis, the best and the worst of people shine through.  It is hard to say where these current events will take us but, as with the pandemic, there will be no return to the normal we understood before.  How do you view this great divide? As a Christian, I believe in the great commandment

The Bible John 13:34-35 (NIV)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Love and respect, is that not what each of us wants and needs?

Have you ever heard of Black Wall Street? Do you know about the Tulsa Massacre? Check out my blog How the Skies Opened Up and Rained Terror on Tusla,

History that was not recorded well. #TulsaMassacre#BLM#BlackWallStreet

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