A descendant of several survivors of the 1921 Race Massacre is playing an important role in the work being done each day at Oaklawn Cemetery in the search for possible mass graves.
Before the team of city workers, scientists and historians gets busy each day, they all pause for a moment of reflection.
"It is very important for us to have that moment,” Brenda Nails Alford said.
Nails Alford is the Public Oversight Committee Chair for the mass graves investigation. She helps lead the moment of reflection at the beginning and end of each day of work.
"We wanted to give everyone the opportunity to - in their own way - pay homage to what we're doing here, and also to the folks that we're looking for,” Nails Alford said.
Brenda is a descendant of several Race Massacre survivors: her great grandmother, grandparents and other family members.
"I know what it feels like, to know that someone is someplace, but you don't know where they are,” she said.
Her great-grandmother, Rosetta Moore, died in 1925. Brenda said Rosetta was buried at Oaklawn Cemetery, but doesn't know where, so she can't visit her grave. She also don't know how old her great-grandmother lived to be.
"Of course the records have been lost, but we do have documentation that she is here. And I'm another generation that hopes to find her and give her the respect that she deserves. However long it takes,” Nails Alford said.
While she doesn't have a picture of Rosetta, her grandparents, James and Vasinora Nails Sr., along with their daughter (Brenda’s aunt), Dr. Cecelia Nails-Palmer, are shown in a mural at Lacy Park in Tulsa.
Rosetta's account of the massacre is shared in Mary Parrish's “Events of the Tulsa Disaster," published in 1923. An advertisement from one of the family businesses is also in the book.
Now, Nails Alford is part of the team working every day to find answers for other families.
"It's just so many people here on this team that are just - their hearts are in this project, and I'm just so proud of that,” she said.
Nails Alford said she first learned she was a descendant of a survivor back in 2003, after receiving notification from a law firm that her name was included in a lawsuit for reparations. Since then, she has been learning more about her family history and expects that will continue to be a “journey” for the rest of her life.