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Tulsa's Greenwood Cultural Center Struggling To Survive

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TULSA, Oklahoma -

Tulsa's Greenwood Cultural Center is fighting through a tough financial situation. State of Oklahoma budget cuts and a tough economic climate have devastated many youth programs that were once offered at the Center at 322 North Greenwood.

The big question now, will the Center survive?

About $100,000 raised to help build the center in North Tulsa was raised within the Tulsa community.

There was also a financial partnership between the grassroots community and state.

Now that the Greenwood Cultural Center's facing hard times and the Center's leadership says it's focused on taking care of its immediate needs.

"We are working to try and hold the center together," said Dwain Midget. Dwain Midget serves as the Center's board chairman.

Midget says the board has been working for several months to get the immediate needs of the Center squared away. To help preserve a crucial part of Tulsa's history.

"We are looking at other opportunities, some grant funding and the like. And again some funding from some of our foundations, both locally and nationally," said Dwain Midget.

Hannibal Johnson, a Tulsa attorney, author, and independent consultant whose written on various topics including Black Wall Street explains the turn of events that's put the Greenwood Cultural Center in this difficult financial situation.

"Both politically and economically things changed in Oklahoma. The leadership in the legislature has changed dramatically. And the economy has taken a downturn in the last several years," said Hannibal Johnson.

"Actually we lost about $350,000 and that's for our programs, our outreach program in the schools and what we have here at the center," said Dwain Midget.

He says the Greenwood Cultural Center needs $90,000 to get through this fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2012. If they don't have money by then, Midget says the board may have to take drastic steps just to stay afloat.

Cutting back on business hours for example. Midget says that $90,000 would be a huge relief right now and allow the Center to meet payroll worry-free.

"Give us a chance to breathe so we can again reposition ourselves and find a way to sustain the cultural center, its operation for the future," said Dwain Midget.

He says he is grateful for the outpouring of community support and hopes more people will help with donations.

Once this immediate need is taken care of, the board plans to focus on restoring youth programs. The Greenwood Cultural Center's dealt with so much to make it to this point. There have been a number of events that have been held there to help, but the board chairman says a significant infusion of dollars is needed to restore the youth programs.

The Greenwood Cultural Center is rich with history, and it's also is the story of the human spirit according to Hannibal Johnson. That human spirit kept the African-American Tulsans from the 1800's until now.

The Greenwood Cultural Center is one of the major sites to learn about Tulsa's historic Greenwood District.

"Then you can't help but notice the historical artifacts. Like the photographs and the survivor's gallery. That gets people who otherwise who wouldn't be in touch with this history, right in the center of it," said Hannibal Johnson.

A vision for this kind of Center was birthed in hearts of black residents in the 1960's. It was designed to preserve the struggles and success of blacks in the community to show the thriving development of Greenwood, which at its peak was recognized as one of the most successful African-American business districts in the nation.

"Greenwood had hotels, businesses, restaurants, we had our own taxis and bus system," said Joe Williams. And it was to educate disadvantaged youth of all races according to former Tulsa city councilman Joe Williams. "And it also had a lot of programs, drama, dancing, music, arts and it gave them an opportunity to grow.

Without the Greenwood Cultural Center, Williams is worried that the youth won't be exposed to examples in Tulsa's history of successful blacks as before.

"They need to see that in our own back yards, so they know that they can do the same thing without having to depend on, leaving this community in order to be able to move forward and move ahead," said Joe Williams.

But state funding was cut for programs and Williams is also concerned about its future.

"I would be really disappointed to see the cultural center close. A lot of people fought real hard to get this center built," said Joe Williams.

Dwain Midget says that events are still being booked at the Center. He says every dollar helps. For any questions about how you can donate, you can contact the Greenwood Cultural Center at 918-596-1020.

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