Jason Gilley made a special trip to Tulsa’s northernmost neighboring city this weekend to show his support for the black community.
The Central High School principal spoke at a Rally for Black Lives event, hosted by Rams for Equality, at Owasso’s new Redbud Festival Park Saturday evening (see PHOTO gallery).
“I think it’s important for us, especially coming from Tulsa, and even north Tulsa, to show support for such events that are happening in Owasso,” Gilley said.
The gathering convened citizens in the heart of downtown to stand up against racial injustice — a trend Gilley believes is continuing to gain a strong momentum across northeast Oklahoma.
“I can’t recall one time where we’ve had the solidarity the way we’ve had in the past few months,” Gilley said, “and the fact that we are having a lot of people who look like myself, as well as a lot of allies, be very vocal and be very direct on their stance, I think we have to get behind that.”
Owasson Christina Cox founded Rams for Equality following the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man whose neck was pinned at length by a white police officer in Minneapolis.
Cox, along with her 11-year-old son Keandre, have led several rallies and protests in the area, including Owasso’s 3-mile protest along 86th Street at the beginning of June, amid the nationwide civil unrest spurred by Floyd’s passing.
She said she wanted to continue the trend by uniting the community for another demonstration, this time on the open lawn of Owasso’s new city park.
“This movement is dear to my heart, as I have seen firsthand the racial injustice in this country, and so has my son,” Cox said. “We are about unity, peace and love, and standing up for equality.”
Cox lined the lawn with pictures of different black men and women across the nation who allegedly lost their lives at the hands of police officers to commemorate their passing.
The faces of victims like George Floyd, Alteria Woods, Michelle Cusseaux and Rayshard Brooks served as inspiration to attendees, including Lesleigh Rutherford, who visited the park with her young daughter Kennedy.
“We need reform, we need major changes, and all lives can’t matter until black lives matter,” Rutherford said, “and I brought my daughter because I think it’s important to teach our kids real history, that includes black history.”
Gilley joined several other speakers, including Ranesha Smith, Tulsa activist and poet; Joe Deere, Cherokee Nation tribal councilman; and Darick Morton, Owasso youth pastor, on the park’s stage to throughout the evening.
The rally also played host to an 8-minute, 46-second “laydown” observance for Floyd — representing the amount of time the Minneapolan was violently subdued by the officer before suffocating to death.