TULSA, okla. (AP) – Joi McCondichie is from this town, but her life and career in public education kept her away from home for decades. When she returned to Tulsa with her then teenage son from Los Angeles, she moved to a house right on the Osage Prairie Trail in the north of the city.
On this trail, thousands of black Tulsans fled the white mob that leveled their community from May 31 to June 1, 1921 in the disaster known as the Tulsa Race Massacre.
“I think God brought me here because He had a job for me,” said McCondichie.
McCondochie planned a march this weekend to remember those who fled one of the worst and deadliest racial violence in American history.
This march is just one of many events that will culminate on Tuesday with a visit from President Joe Biden, who is expected to join local leaders on the occasion.
The weekend should include a keynote address by former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and proxy Stacey Abrams, as well as a performance by singer John Legend at Tulsa’s ONEOK Field in the historic Greenwood neighborhood. However, the organizers canceled the event on Thursday, citing “unexpected circumstances with animators and speakers”.
Abrams and Legend representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
Law enforcement agencies in the US received a Department of Homeland Security bulletin this week warning them of the potential for targeted violence in commemoration of the Tulsa massacre, according to a federal law enforcement officer.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity about discussing a bulletin that was not publicly released and said authorities did not have credible information about a particular conspiracy aimed at the Tulsa events. However, the warning was given given the nature of the commemoration and the “volatile threat environment”.
McCondochie said her late grandmother, Eldoris McCondochie, was among the survivors who flocked from Greenwood, also known as Black Wall Street, in 1921, the bustling town in a city that was the image of black wealth and business success.
On Tuesday morning, Joi McCondichie’s “A Century Walk” will trace the escape of the residents of Greenwood. The hike begins on a 1.5 mile stretch of abandoned railroad tracks near Greenwood and Archer avenues. And then the hikers head north on the Osage Prairie Trail until they reach 56th Street between Peoria Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, where a community celebration awaits them.
“I thought this would be a nice way to remember ancestors by trying to walk a mile in their shoes,” said Joi McCondichie.
Other events include the last three known survivors of the massacre – 106-year-old Lessie Benningfield Randle, 107-year-old Viola Fletcher and 100-year-old Hughes Van Ellis. Last week, the three gave testimony to the US House of Representatives massacre on a panel.
“You will be going down Black Wall Street, historic Black Wall Street, in a horse-drawn cart,” said Tiffany Crutcher, organizer of the Black Wall Street Legacy Festival, which is separate from the city’s official commemorations.
“They will take us into a very powerful, powerful weekend to show respect and honor to the lives lost and the descendants and survivors who are still alive,” said Crutcher.
Other memorial programs include an art installation by the Greenwood Art Project and the dedication of a prayer wall at Vernon AME Church, one of the few Greenwood structures that survived the massacre.
Following the official massacre commemorations, the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission will open Greenwood Rising, a $ 30 million history center and museum, on Wednesday. The commission pays tribute to Black Wall Street’s heritage with exhibits depicting the Greenwood neighborhood before and after the massacre.
“When you get on at Greenwood Rising, we’re actually going to have railroad tracks you walk on,” reminding us that black and white Tulsa used to be divided by railroad tracks, said Senator Kevin Matthews, chairman of the Centennial Commission on Massacres. The history center is located in its legislative district on Greenwood and Archer Streets.
Republican Mayor GT Bynum, who is white, said the weekend’s events were crucial to a reconciliation process that was badly needed in the city.
“I think the biggest mistake that could come out of this centenary is when people look at it and think, ‘Well, that’s just something that happened a hundred years ago” and not think about how it was refers to America today, “Bynum said.
Associate press reporter Ben Fox in Washington contributed to this.
For more AP reports on the Tulsa Race Massacre Anniversary, please visit https://apnews.com/hub/tulsa-race-massacre.
Morrison is a member of the AP’s Race and Ethnicity team. Follow him on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/aaronlmorrison.
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