It’s been 98 years since the race riots in Tulsa. (You can read about them in my last blog here)
What has changed?
In 1996, the Greenwood Cultural Center was opened. Their goal is to recreate, renovate and revitalize the Greenwood district that was destroyed in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre (called the Black Wall street by author Booker T Washington). The website refers to the event as a massacre instead of the more common title of “riot”. The goal of the center is the education of Oklahomans and Americans—remembering both the victims and the survivors.
In 2016, an article in Tulsa World (95 years later), said there was still room for improvement. Marq Lewis (head of We the People Oklahoma) said the “historic African-American areas are desolate. They need economic improvement, more school improvement, more grocery stores... “ He concluded by saying “Tulsa is a city divided by races that do not commingle.”
In 2018, for the first time, Tulsa schools added education about the event to their curriculum.
Now, let me tell you about a guy.
George Kaiser, according to Wiki, is the Chairman of BOK Financial and one of 100 richest people in the world. His parents left Germany due to the Nazi occupation and they settled in Tulsa and started Kaiser Frances Oil together with other Jewish refugees. Along with being one of the richest men in the world, Kaiser has a reputation for being a philanthropist on the level of Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. He’s committed to giving half of his money away in a “Giving Pledge”. His special interest is childhood poverty and education, but what I wanted to tell you about is a playground.
The Gathering Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma is a 66 acre park with playgrounds, parks, skateparks, concert venues and restaurants. It’s ADA compliant and it has desensitization areas for people who have autism and get overwhelmed.
And it’s all free.
The park was Kaiser’s idea. He wanted to turn the waterfront area into a site where Tulsans could get together. His dream turned into the largest private gift to a public park in the US history. The Gathering Place provides safe areas for children to play, adults to meet for coffee, and families to enjoy music or fireworks.
But perhaps the best part of all is the diversity of people that gather together to enjoy the new park. Maybe healing doesn’t begin with talk…maybe it begins with play.