City Of Tulsa Starts Permit Process For ‘Black Lives Matter’ Mural

Tuesday, August 4th 2020, 6:06 pm
By: Amy Slanchik

TULSA, Okla. -

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum sent a letter and started paperwork Tuesday afternoon for the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce to request keeping the Black Lives Matter Mural on the street. 

This comes after a group of leaders, activists and politicians stood together in unity, speaking at a news conference Tuesday morning in the Greenwood District, criticizing the city, and accusing the mayor of dividing the black community. 

"It seems to me that he only cares about what is politically expedient, and not what is morally right,” Vernon AME Church Rev. Dr. Robert Turner said. 

Turner, along with Oklahoma Democratic Party Chair Alicia Andrews, state Rep. Regina Goodwin (D) and President of the Greenwood Arts and Cultural Society, INC. C.J. Neal were some of the speakers. 

"We stand to say that we want the mural here. We stand to say that we stand behind the message here,” Neal said. 

Related Story: Petition Created To Keep Greenwood Black Lives Matter Mural

"It's a beautiful mural. It's just that it's on a public piece of property rather than on private property," Mayor Bynum said in a separate news conference. 

The words "Black Lives Matter" were set to be removed Monday morning, but Bynum said the city put it on hold Friday afternoon, wanting the Greenwood Chamber to be aware of its options. 

One option, the mayor said, is asking the city to vacate the street, making the chamber in charge of maintaining it. The Greenwood Chamber of Commerce owns both sides of the street where the mural is.  

"If I had the resources at the Greenwood Chamber, I would love to take this street. But if we get one pothole, that could be $10,000. If somebody trips and falls, that's a lawsuit,” Greenwood Chamber of Commerce President Freeman Culver said. 

Bynum said both the Chamber and the Merchant and Tenant Association made clear to him they did not request the mural and do not want it to stay. 

Culver said that's not what happened. 

"I did not tell him that, no,” he said during the news conference. "How and why would we want this removed? We're in the middle of restoring Black Wall Street," Freeman said

"They also conveyed to me that they were upset with me for delaying the removal of the mural yesterday morning and that they did not want to be in the middle of some big fight between activists and the legal team at the city over what we can do,” Bynum said. 

Related Story: Black Lives Matter Mural To Be Removed From Greenwood Ave

Merchants and Tenants Association President Dr. Patricia Breeckner said on the phone Tuesday she had “no comment” on the matter. 

Bynum sent a letter to Culver Tuesday afternoon, reviewing their recent phone call. Bynum also apologized to Culver for "anything" he's "had to endure," but said it doesn't change the facts. 

The mayor also started paperwork the Chamber can submit to the city council to seek approval to keep the mural. In the background information on the document filled out by city staff, it says, “The Historic Greenwood Chamber of Commerce requests a license agreement to maintain this use and occupancy of the street…” 

Bynum said in the letter to Freeman, "Should you desire to proceed with seeking City Council approval to preserve the mural, please sign and return the attached documentation by close of business Thursday so it can be properly processed." 

Bynum said he talked with leadership at Hille Foundation, which owns both sides of Greenwood one block to the south of where the mural currently is. The mayor said they indicated they would like to move forward with seeking a permit from the city council to put a mural on that part of the street. 

The City of Tulsa said if the request is not submitted by the end of the day Thursday, the City will determine its proper course of action moving forward. 

You can read Mayor Bynum's full letter to the Chamber below.