2019-08-16 ne-centennial4116

Ashley Philippsen, deputy chief of community development and policy for the city of Tulsa, speaks to attendees of a meeting of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission at the Greenwood Cultural Center about community grant proposals on Aug. 15. JOSEPH RUSHMORE for Tulsa World

The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission recognizes the rich and complex story of the Greenwood District cannot be told with one voice.

Many perspectives are needed to tell the tragedy and vibrancy of the historic district.

In this spirit, the commission announced a program to award grants to nonprofits and other noncommercial groups up to $10,000 for events between May 2020 and June 2021. The total goal is to hand out $200,000.

The opportunity to inspire many narratives is important in the commemoration of the massacre.

Concerns have been growing about the control and tone the commission will yield in the centennial remembrance. Some people have suggested the commission remain mostly silent to ensure no missteps.

These grants show a willingness to broaden the storytelling and artistic expression to various community members. These varied events are chances to gather people in a peaceful way to learn different viewpoints.

Applicants will need to make a pitch with details of the activity, marketing plan and information about partners. Recipients will be required to report on financial spending and outcomes of the events.

“Events must reflect the themes of commemoration, reflection and learning ... racial healing ... and ultimately, if we’re going to transform a system, that involves rewiring relationships and aligning our values, so hopefully, we want these projects to strengthen our community,” said Ashley Harris Philippsen, commission member and deputy chief of community development and policy for the city of Tulsa.

The requirements are reasonable and reflect standards in competitive grant programs and transparency.

The centennial will likely attract national and international attention, but it is a uniquely Tulsa story. It must be remembered in a respectful and inclusive manner.

We commend the commission for finding ways to expand participation and look forward to the ideas that spring from the grants. Lift every voice and sing.


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