Black history ‘cant be like some old faded book. Its got to come alive.’ Local events offered to learn more – Tulsa World

Posted By on February 4, 2020

Alicia Latimer didnt lack for an education in black history as a child.

I grew up in Mobile, in the Alabama of George Wallace and little girls being burned in a church, she said.

In Tulsa, Latimer has made a career out of helping a city confront a chapter in black history many preferred to keep hidden.

Now the African-American Resource Center coordinator at the Tulsa City-County Library, Latimer said she had lived here for 20 years when her mother-in-law mentioned something about a riot in casual conversation.

I said: What riot? I had no idea. Thats a shame! Latimer said. My son attended Booker T. Washington (High School), and he never learned about it.

Its painful, but I did the research. My husbands uncles were in Tulsa at the time. One of them was a detainee. I am a member of Mount Zion Baptist Church, which was burned to the ground. I really do have skin in the game all of Tulsa has skin in the game.

Latimer is among a host of Tulsans leading Black History Month events in February who say theyre still trying to right age-old wrongs in the teaching of American history, in general, while embracing new educational opportunities amid global interest in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

This years African-American Heritage Bowl, an annual quiz bowl held during Black History Month at the Rudisill Regional Library, will focus solely on the massacre. It will serve as the kick off of full year of events leading to the 100th anniversary.

Latimer and members of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission wrote a special quiz book for the event with 200 questions and answers. In it, she included an African proverb that guides her work: Until the lion tells the tale, stories of victory of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.

A quiz bowl may sound a bit trite, but Latimers aim is to get the community, and especially youth, to engage with their hometowns own black history.

For me, its in my soul. Weve got to tell this story and tell it in a passionate way. It cant be like some old faded book. Its got to come alive, she said. Yes, theres winning and its fun, but theres a message and education in it.

Another community event, which has already drawn interest from more than 1,100 Facebook users, will be a discussion of race and responsibility as depicted in the wildly popular HBO TV series called Watchmen.

Sean Latham, director of the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities and an English professor at the University of Tulsa, will frame the discussion with Nehemiah Frank, founder and editor of The Black Wall Street Times.

Black history is U.S. history, but for so long, U.S. history and U.S. literature and culture was taught through a white lens, said Latham.

The extraordinary thing Watchmen did was retell the history of super heroes in 20th century America by making the Tulsa Race Massacre the pivotal moment.

What happens if we saw that as an event that was every bit as important as World War II or the invention of the atomic bomb? It imagines reparations that were paid to those who lost lives and property and imagines a fundamentally different future.

The latest installment of Real Talk, a series of panel discussions about topics of critical importance to marginalized communities, will focus on the common struggle for equal rights experienced by blacks and Jews in the United States.

Among the invited panelists will be Andrew Spector, a former Tulsa elementary school teacher who is now working at Leadership Tulsa on a childrens social justice program he co-founded called Tulsa Changemakers.

I think I was asked to speak because of a combination of my Jewish background and my interest in racial, economic and immigration justice, Spector said.

There is a shared oppression and persecution of both black people and Jewish people, as well as the shared activism. I hope that my voice and my experiences can speak to the importance of Black History Month and Black history as American History.

And while every day is black history day in Anthony Cherrys history and African-American studies classroom at Booker T. Washington High School, Cherry says that still is not something to be taken for granted in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

He grew up here but never learned about the Tulsa Race Massacre, Oklahomas historically black towns or the complicated history of black and Native American relations until college. Cherry attended predominantly white schools in the 80s and 90s, and between kindergarten and 12th grade, he had only one teacher who was not white.

My goal became to give the kind of empowering lessons I wish I could have had as a young student, he said. High-quality black history lessons were practically nonexistent.

Cherry recalled asking his eighth-grade English teacher why that was, and her response had a profound impact on him and the course of his life.

She told me that she couldnt think of how black history applied to her curriculum, he said. Her flippancy and dismissiveness of black literary contributions confused and even angered me. When I tried to press the issue, she threatened to discipline me if I did not leave her alone immediately.

He began his own quest to learn black history, with encouragement from his parents, that set him on a path that led all the way to earning a masters degree in American history from the University of Tulsa.

I fell in love with American history in general. It became my passion to uncover hidden truths about myself, the often overlooked contributions of my ancestors and the potential for a more prosperous future in American society, Cherry said.

Black History Month will be commemorated in Cherrys classroom with a special unit on the World War I era from black perspectives, including the Harlem Hellfighters, the Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance, the birth of jazz, and the Tulsa Race Massacre.

This is the time period I am most passionate about due to the many dynamic challenges and triumphs for black Americans, Cherry said.

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Black history 'cant be like some old faded book. Its got to come alive.' Local events offered to learn more - Tulsa World

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