Pop Culture Introduces New Generation To 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre

Thursday, September 17th 2020, 10:25 pm
By: Dave Davis

TULSA, Okla. -

A 26-time Emmy nominated smash-hit on HBO, an award-winning comic series, an immersive recreation of Greenwood, shot in Tulsa, airing on YouTube, NBA Superstars and one of the most popular podcasts in America offer just a handful of examples of how the story of Black Wall Street, its destruction and rebirth, is spreading around the world.

"A pop-cultural opportunity to share, to introduce something that actually happened,” Quraysh Ali Lansana said. “A very significant moment in U.S. history that happened here in Tulsa, Oklahoma."

Lansana is a poet, writer and adjunct faculty at OSU-Tulsa. Lansana teaches young people about Black Wall Street and the 1921 Race Massacre. He said many of them are learning about it for the first time.

"I feel like the younger generations know less about this districtand that is disturbing, yet not surprising," Lansana said.

HBO's hit series Watchmen has undoubtedly helped raise awareness of the Massacre. Google searches spiked on the subject after the first episode.

In the show, the Race Massacre is graphically depicted. It's set in Tulsa, following a masked female Tulsa Police detective who finds out her grandfather, Will Reeves, was a Massacre survivor. The nearly endless Oklahoma connections are evident in the show, as the Greenwood Cultural Center, legendary lawman Bass Reeves, Tulsan Tim Blake Nelson all make an appearance. Show creator Damon Lindelof was even part of Tulsa's 2020 Juneteenth Block Party.

"My hope is that, as Will Reeves said in Watchmento his granddaughter, 'You can't heal under a mask. Wounds need air,’ and that Tulsa is now getting that air and that attention for healing," said Lindelof.

Most of what remains of turn-of-the-century Black Wall Street is along Greenwood Avenue. Tulsan and artist Eddye K. Allen said she has seen the global increase in awareness of Greenwood. She's sold artwork to Hollywood actors and several European patrons. She believes her inspiration starts here.

"It's kind of cool to know that everything comes full circle and I'm home,” Allen said. “That seems to be where you get the most love.”

Former Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook spent 11 years here. He and fellow NBA star LeBron James are working on separate projects about Black Wall Street and the Massacre.

"I believe that with my platform, I'm able to kind of reach that demographic of people, young kids around the world to let them know that it's okay to be able to stand up,” Westbrook said. “It's a struggle. It's not just going to change tomorrow.”

Lansana has also written a children's book about a Black girl whose family lives in 1920s Greenwood. He believes this continued retelling of what happened in Tulsa will help encourage young Black artists and performers to believe in their talents and themselves.

"Black youth or youth of color who don't see themselves reflected in places, and don't think there are opportunities for them to dream, to build," said Lansana.

"Don't ever stop a kid that wants to color," Allen said. "That was something that my mom never took away from me - and I did everything. But art seems to find a way right back to where it's home."