By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Several events featuring celebrities including Alfre Woodard, Rev. Al Sharpton, Russell Westbrook and others, will take place this weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma to honor Juneteenth – June 19, 1865.
That was the date when news of the end of the Civil War, and final abolition of slavery in the United States — reached Texas.
Following World War I, Tulsa was recognized nationally for its affluent African American community known as the Greenwood District. This well established business district and surrounding residential area was referred to as “Black Wall Street.”
In June 1921, a series of events, referred to as the Tulsa Race Massacre, nearly destroyed the entire Greenwood area.
June 19, or Juneteenth, marks the date when a mob of white residents launched an attack on the Greenwood District which destroyed the business district and its residential surroundings.
The 24 hours of violence leveled 35 city blocks and resulted in 800 injuries with the death toll estimated anywhere from 36 to 300 people, according to the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum. Historians can not determine how many lives were saved by Tulsans who hid local residents fleeing the violence on the north side of the city.
On Friday, June 19, during the Juneteenth Celebration – Tulsa Justice Fund event, hosted by the Black Wall Street Chamber of Commerce, Black Wall Street Times and others, Rev. Al Sharpton will give a keynote speech beginning at 6 p.m. This event will take place from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the Historic Greenwood Area, 700 N. Greenwood Avenue.
Organized by I too, am America, Greenwood community sponsors include: Starr Fisher-Nova World Galaxy, Block Builderz, Demanding a JUSTulsa, Black Women Business Owners of Tulsa, Tulsa Juneteenth, Focus: Black Oklahoma, Fire in Litte Africa, Tri-City Collective, The Oklahoma Eagle, Silhouette Sneakers & Arts, Black Lives Matter OKC, Racism Stinks, 100 Black Men of Tulsa, Inc. Black Wall Street Chambers of Commerce, BTW vs McLain Annual Alumni Classic, MetCARE Foundations, Terence Crutcher Foundation and The Black Wall Street Times.
According to the Black Wall Street Times, Rev. Sharpton will attend the event as a guest of the Crutcher Family, who have been advocates for policing reform since the death of their family member Terence Crutcher. Crutcher was unarmed when he was shot and killed by a Tulsa police officer in 2016.
In a post by the Black Wall Street Times, Nehemiah Frank shared, “We are all thankful for the folks at Until We Do it, who with the support of Bella+Canvas, are donating over 26,000 masks and training volunteers who will distribute them to help keep us healthy.”
Watch 2020 Juneteenth Celebration Tulsa Justice Fund Live online here.
On Saturday, June 20, beginning at 6 p.m., the Tulsa Juneteenth Block Party will roll out a notable list of speakers including NBA star Russell Westbrook, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, actress Alfre Woodard, comedian Baratunde Thurston, Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, “Watchmen” Creator Damon Lindelof and others.
Guests can participate virtually online at the Tulsa Block Party website.
Westbrook is currently working as a producer on an upcoming documentary on the 1921 Tulsa race massacre titled “Terror In Tulsa: The Rise And Fall of Black Wall Street.”
Westbrook told Variety last week, “When I learned about the heartbreaking events that happened in Tulsa nearly 100 years ago, I knew this was a story I wanted to tell.”
Westbrook’s manager told Yahoo Sports that he’ll participate in Saturday’s block party virtually.
Other special guests include: HBO “Watchman” writer and producer Damon Lendelof, senior advisor to Joe Biden Karine Jean-Pierre, founder and editor of Black Wall Street Times Nehemiah Frank, actress Sophia Bush, Oklahoma State Senator Kevin Matthews of Tulsa, rapper Jidenna, musical group Sons of Serendip, project director 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Commissioner Phil Armstrong, and documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson.
On Friday and Saturday, beginning at 11 a.m., Tulsa businesses are hosting ‘Get Up! Stand Up!’ Celebration of Juneteenth and Black Music Month. Kids zone activities will feature face painting, kick ball, flag football, bounce houses and water balloons in addition to Car and Motorcycle Takeover, DJs, live bands, voter registration, 2020 census information and COVID-19 screenings will be available.
Celebrate Juneteenth at Circle Cinema on June 19, with free preview screenings of the documentary film “John Lewis: Good Trouble.” Free screenings will be held at: 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m., 2:40 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 5:10 p.m., 7 p.m., and 7:40 p.m.
On Friday, June 19, the Gilcrease Museum is hosting Juneteenth History with Dr. Brandy Thomas Wells. Join Dr. Wells, Assistant Professor of History at Oklahoma State University, for a discussion with Dr. Billy Smith, Assistant Director of the Helmerich Center for American Research, that will shed light on the origin and history of Juneteenth.
Juneteenth live entertainment will be provided by Charlie Redd and The Full Flava Kings on Friday, June 19, from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. at the Agora Event Center, 1402 S. Peoria. Sanitation stations will be available during this event.
On Friday evening there will be a Juneteenth Night Vigil, from 10:30 p.m. until 7 a.m. the following morning, hosted by Unity Tulsa in the Greenwood District.
On Saturday, June 20, there will be a Rally Against Hate held from 6 – 8 p.m., at Veterans Parks, 1875 S. Boulder, hosted by Tulsa activists Tykebrean Natrail Cheshier and Jeana Acosta. This peaceful rally will also offer voter registration.
In Oklahoma City, on Friday, June 19 the Juneteenth OKC Block Party will feature musicians Jabee, Shortt Dogg, Nitro, and Spence Browne. Organizers asks participants to wear a mask, practice social distancing, and bring a lawn chair. The event starts at 6 p.m. at 3705 Springlake Drive in the parking lot in front of Nappy Roots Bookstore (NE 37th & Kelly Avenue in Park Plaza).
Food trucks and activities for the kids will be onsite. If you can’t attend –B.L.M. OKC will be live streaming the event from their Facebook page.
Black Lives Matter OKC will provide a charter bus to the Juneteenth Tulsa for Justice event on Friday, June 19 leaving at 1:30 on Friday. For more details, message the BLMOKC Facebook page.