The concerned reader left me a voicemail.
Why, she wondered, are we writing so much about what she called the “black situation in Tulsa.” We are “creating dissent,” and our coverage is “divisive.”
I got that call a couple of weeks ago but have heard the sentiment several times, especially in the last year. It seems apparent that there’s a concern in some parts of the community about discussing racial issues, specifically the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
Those concerns share common themes: We are “stirring things up.” We are “pouring gasoline on the fire.” Sometimes it’s a different tone: I don’t agree with what happened in 1921, and I didn’t do it. Stop bringing it up!
I answer that this has been an unresolved issue in our community for decades and it must be addressed. But today, I want you to hear why this is so important from Tulsa’s mayor and from a 13-year-old who made me proud to be part of this community.
Both shared their thoughts Thursday night in north Tulsa during the first meeting of the committee overseeing the search for 1921 mass graves.
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum obviously has heard the same concerns as I have (and undoubtedly more). In his opening remarks, Bynum directly answered why the city is conducting this search for the dead 98 years later:
“If you get murdered in Tulsa, we have a very basic compact with you that we will do everything we can to find out what happened to you and to render justice for your family,” Bynum said. “… And in my mind, and I think in the policymakers of the city’s minds, it doesn’t matter if you were murdered two weeks ago or 98 years ago.
“No family in this community should have to have as part of their family’s story that an awful event happened and their family member just disappeared and they never knew what happened. That’s not acceptable. That is why we’re treating this as a homicide investigation.”
Later in the meeting, community members shared thoughts and concerns. That’s when a 13-year-old moved to the front of the crowd, took his turn at the microphone and passionately addressed the mayor and more than a dozen community leaders.
Kamarjae Boyd will be an eighth-grader at Union next year, and at the center of his concern was a question: Why has this taken so long?
Similar to Bynum — who is disturbed that a U.S. city in the 21st century could contain mass graves and not know where — Kamarjae was dismayed.
He shared his concerns about not knowing where graves may be located and the effect this has on him and his friends.
“… It hurts for me to even come up here,” Kamarjae said. “I shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t have to come up here, because this should have been handled years ago.”
Kamarjae is right. The many issues we face today should have been addressed generations ago; but the simple fact is, they were not.
That’s why the city should investigate. And that’s why we will write about these issues.