Hundreds gather at historic Tulsa church’s prayer wall

Tulsa_Massacre-Centennial_68717 A woman views a mural at 322 North Greenwood during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre centennial Monday, May 31, 2021 in Tulsa, Okla. Hundreds have gathered for an interfaith service dedicating a prayer wall outside historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood. Monday's event comes on the centennial of the first day of one of the deadliest racist massacres in the nation.
Tulsa_Massacre-Centennial_84839 Meg Chang views the installation called "Society's Cage" after the dedication of the Prayer Wall for Racial Healing at Vernon AME Church Monday, May 31, 2021 in Tulsa, Okla. Hundreds have gathered for an interfaith service dedicating a prayer wall outside historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood. Monday's event comes on the centennial of the first day of one of the deadliest racist massacres in the nation.
Tulsa_Massacre_20837 Ana Nunez, right, and Connor Coney embrace as they visit a makeshift memorial beside stairs leading to a now empty lot near the historic Greenwood district during centennial commemorations of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Tulsa, Okla.
Tulsa_Massacre_06543 Raekeisha Watkins visits flowers left as a memorial for the Tulsa Race Massacre near the historic greenwood district during centennial commemorations of the massacre, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Tulsa, Okla.
Tulsa_Massacre_10693 Ana Nunez, right, and Connor Coney embrace as they visit a makeshift memorial beside stairs leading to a now empty lot near the historic Greenwood district during centennial commemorations of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Tulsa, Okla.
Tulsa_Massacre_76607 Ana Nunez, left, and Connor Coney embrace as they visit flowers left at a memorial for the Tulsa Race Massacre near the historic greenwood district during centennial commemorations of the massacre, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Tulsa, Okla.
Tulsa_Massacre_50249 People hold hands after leaving flowers besides others at a makeshift memorial beside stairs leading to a now empty lot near the historic greenwood district during centennial commemorations of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Tulsa, Okla.
Tulsa_Massacre_94312 A sign is pictured Oaklawn Cemetery in Tulsa, Okla., nearly 100 years after the Tulsa race massacre. Fencing has been erected and markers placed in the ground in preparation for the start of mapping, site preparation and excavations of Tulsa race massacre victims in mass graves beginning June 1, 2021.
Tulsa_Massacre_25425 The headstones of Reuben Everett, left, and Eddie Lockard, right, victims of the Tulsa race massacre, are pictured with flowers Monday, May 31, 2021, at Oaklawn Cemetery in Tulsa, Okla., nearly 100 years after the massacre. Fencing has been erected and markers placed in the ground in preparation for the start of mapping, site preparation and excavations of Tulsa race massacre victims in mass graves beginning June 1, 2021.
Tulsa_Massacre_31414 The headstones of Reuben Everett, left, and Eddie Lockard, right, victims of the Tulsa race massacre, are pictured with flowers Monday, May 31, 2021, at Oaklawn Cemetery in Tulsa, Okla., nearly 100 years after the massacre. Fencing has been erected and markers placed in the ground in preparation for the start of mapping, site preparation and excavations of Tulsa race massacre victims in mass graves beginning June 1, 2021.
APTOPIX_Tulsa_Massacre-Centennial_86213 People pray as they hold their hands on a prayer wall outside of the historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Greenwood neighborhood during the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Tulsa, Okla. The church was largely destroyed when a white mob descended on the prosperous Black neighborhood in 1921, burning, killing, looting and leveling a 35-square-block area.
APTOPIX_Tulsa_Massacre-Centennial_77811 People pray at the dedication of a prayer wall outside of the historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Greenwood neighborhood during the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Tulsa, Okla. The church was largely destroyed when a white mob descended on the prosperous Black neighborhood in 1921, burning, killing, looting and leveling a 35-square-block area.
APTOPIX_Tulsa_Massacre-Centennial_86767 Edna Osborne, center holds her head down in prayer during the dedication of a prayer wall outside of the historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Greenwood neighborhood during the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Tulsa, Okla. The church was largely destroyed when a white mob descended on the prosperous Black neighborhood in 1921, burning, killing, looting and leveling a 35-square-block area.
Tulsa_Massacre-Centennial_86213 People pray as they hold their hands on a prayer wall outside of the historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Greenwood neighborhood during the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Tulsa, Okla. The church was largely destroyed when a white mob descended on the prosperous Black neighborhood in 1921, burning, killing, looting and leveling a 35-square-block area.
Tulsa_Massacre_52937 People hold their hands on a prayer wall outside of the historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Greenwood neighborhood during the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Tulsa, Okla. The church was largely destroyed when a white mob descended on the prosperous Black neighborhood in 1921, burning, killing, looting and leveling a 35-square-block area.
Tulsa_Massacre_72500 People raise up their arms during the dedication of a prayer wall outside of the historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Greenwood neighborhood during the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Tulsa, Okla. The church was largely destroyed when a white mob descended on the prosperous Black neighborhood in 1921, burning, killing, looting and leveling a 35-square-block area.
Tulsa_Massacre_96357 People pray during the dedication of a prayer wall at the historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Greenwood neighborhood during the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Tulsa, Okla. The church was largely destroyed when a white mob descended on the prosperous Black neighborhood in 1921, burning, killing, looting and leveling a 35-square-block area.
Tulsa_Massacre_40830 Rev. Jesse Jackson meets people after the dedication of a prayer wall outside of the historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Greenwood neighborhood during the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Tulsa, Okla. The church was largely destroyed when a white mob descended on the prosperous Black neighborhood in 1921, burning, killing, looting and leveling a 35-square-block area.
Tulsa_Massacre-Centennial_77811 People pray at the dedication of a prayer wall outside of the historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Greenwood neighborhood during the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Tulsa, Okla. The church was largely destroyed when a white mob descended on the prosperous Black neighborhood in 1921, burning, killing, looting and leveling a 35-square-block area.
Tulsa_Massacre-Centennial_86767 Edna Osborne, center holds her head down in prayer during the dedication of a prayer wall outside of the historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Greenwood neighborhood during the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Tulsa, Okla. The church was largely destroyed when a white mob descended on the prosperous Black neighborhood in 1921, burning, killing, looting and leveling a 35-square-block area.
Tulsa_Massacre-Centennial_41962 Clergy and religious leaders hold their hands on a prayer wall outside of the historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Greenwood neighborhood during the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Tulsa, Okla. The church was largely destroyed when a white mob descended on the prosperous Black neighborhood in 1921, burning, killing, looting and leveling a 35-square-block area.
Tulsa_Massacre-Centennial_84283 Faith Hailey, left, and Brian Hailey touch hold their hands on a prayer wall outside of the historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Greenwood neighborhood during the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Tulsa, Okla. The church was largely destroyed when a white mob descended on the prosperous Black neighborhood in 1921, burning, killing, looting and leveling a 35-square-block area.
APTOPIX_Tulsa_Massacre_96357 People pray during the dedication of a prayer wall at the historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Greenwood neighborhood during the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Tulsa, Okla. The church was largely destroyed when a white mob descended on the prosperous Black neighborhood in 1921, burning, killing, looting and leveling a 35-square-block area.
(1/23)

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Hundreds gathered Monday for an interfaith service dedicating a prayer wall outside historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood on the centennial of the first day of one of the deadliest racist massacres in the nation.

National civil rights leaders, including the Revs. Jesse Jackson and William Barber, joined multiple local faith leaders offering prayers and remarks outside the church that was under construction and largely destroyed when a white mob descended on the prosperous Black neighborhood in 1921, burning, killing, looting and leveling a 35-square-block area. Estimates of the death toll range from dozens to 300.

Barber, a civil and economic rights activist, said he was “humbled even to stand on this holy ground.”

“You can kill the people but you cannot kill the voice of the blood.”

Although the church was nearly destroyed in the massacre, parishioners continued to meet in the basement, and it was rebuilt several years later, becoming a symbol of the resilience of Tulsa’s Black community. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2018.

As the ceremony came to an end, participants put their hands on the prayer wall along the side of the sanctuary while soloist Santita Jackson sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Traffic hummed on a nearby interstate that cuts through the Greenwood District, which was rebuilt after the massacre but slowly deteriorated 50 years later after homes were taken by eminent domain as part of urban renewal in the 1970s.

Among those who spoke at the outdoor ceremony were Democratic U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee of California, and Lisa Brunt Rochester and U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, both from Delaware. Rochester connected the efforts toward reparations in Tulsa with a wider effort: pending House legislation that would create a commission to study and propose reparations for African Americans.

“We’re here to remember, to mourn, to rebuild equitably,” Rochester said.

Through the course of a drizzly afternoon, visitors wearing rain gear walked along Greenwood Avenue, photographing historic sites and markers.

Many took time to read plaques on the sidewalk, naming numerous Black-owned buildings and businesses that were destroyed during the 1921 massacre, and indicating whether they had ever been rebuilt.

Monday’s slate of activities commemorating the massacre was supposed to culminate with a “Remember & Rise” headline event at nearby ONEOK Field, featuring Grammy-award-winning singer and songwriter John Legend and a keynote address from voting rights activist Stacey Abrams. But that event was scrapped late last week after an agreement couldn’t be reached over monetary payments to three survivors of the deadly attack, a situation that highlighted broader debates over reparations for racial injustice.

In a statement tweeted Sunday, Legend didn’t specifically address the cancellation of the event, but said: “The road to restorative justice is crooked and rough — and there is space for reasonable people to disagree about the best way to heal the collective trauma of white supremacy. But one thing that is not up for debate — one fact we must hold with conviction — is that the path to reconciliation runs through truth and accountability.”

On Monday night, the Centennial Commission planned to host a candlelight vigil downtown to honor the victims of the massacre, and President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit Tulsa on Tuesday.

___

For more AP coverage of the Tulsa Race Massacre anniversary, go to https://apnews.com/hub/tulsa-race-massacre

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

Related Categories:

National News

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up