Cleansing ceremony held in wake of KKK rally in Tulsa

Monday, October 2nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Brooms, mops and burning smudge sticks replaced the Confederate flag and signs supporting the Ku Klux Klan on Oakley Plaza in downtown Tulsa.

About 300 people showed up for a symbolic cleanup on Sunday "to remove the last stain of hatred from our Civic Center," said Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry Executive Director Steve Cranford.

The cleanup coincided with a Tulsa Together service at Mount Zion Baptist Church to celebrate World Communion Day, an annual event to promote racial reconciliation.

Mayor Susan Savage joined 500 people at the service, which began seven years ago.

"The Klan didn't get what it wanted and Tulsa did -- this was one more step toward racial unity," said Stephanie Bramlett, 15.

About 20 members of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and 40 of their supporters were separated from about 75 protesters by several chain link fences on Saturday.

The American Knights, considered to be a more inflammatory wing of the Klan, blared loud music and distributed pamphlets as opponents played recorded messages from Martin Luther King Jr.

The Indiana-based Klan faction said it came to Tulsa to recruit members for a newly formed "realm" in nearby Collinsville. No arrests were made.

While most people used brooms to sweep an area that was for the most part already clean, others waved burning smudge sticks with juniper and sage to clean the air in the area.

Audrey Thixton said the sage and juniper were originally used by American Indian cultures not only as a form of incense but also as a way of warding off evil spirits and bringing in good ones.

Thixton said she burns a smudge stick twice a year in her house and brought them to the cleanup "to bring in the peace and harmony and joy" to the area.

Edward Samilton has lived in Tulsa for 40 years, and said he's seen race relations improve.

"We're not there yet but we're a lot closer," Samilton said.

"The more you know about people, the more you're at ease with each other."