This week marks the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre, one of the worst acts of domestic terrorism in our nation’s history. In 1921 the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa was destroyed by an angry white mob deputized by the local government. The area was one of the wealthiest African American communities in the country, and considered the “Black Wall Street” by Booker T. Washington.
Reverend Robert Turner is the lead pastor of Vernon AME Church in the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The church was one of the few buildings that survived the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
Turner revealed that the Vernon AME Church basement became a safe space for people of the community after the massacre.
“During the massacre when they destroyed over 1,256 homes, 600 businesses, [there were] 300 people killed, 10,000 folks made homeless in less than 18 hours, [and] the first time bombs were dropped on American soil, people sought refuge in the basement of our churches,” Turner said.
Later, the basement, which served as a hospital for those injured during the massacre, was renamed the “Refuge Room.” It has also hosted events like the Booker T. Washington High School Graduation Ceremony. Since COVID-19, the church has also supplied 370,000 meals to people in the community.
Turner learned about the Tulsa Race Massacre in 2003 while attending the University of Alabama School of Law. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t that surprised that Black Wall Street was destroyed,” Turner said. “I was not surprised that it was sanctioned by the government. I was just really disappointed and upset, but I was not surprised.”
There has been continuous tension between the white and African American communities since the race massacre. Tulsa, Oklahoma’s population of whites is 62% and the black population is 15%. The pastor has been making people aware of the event and advocating for a better Greenwood District.
“In the end, God wins,” Turner believes. “If God wins, truth and justice win. That’s what gives me hope for tomorrow.”
Transformation Church, also located in Tulsa Oklahoma, wrote about the event.
“Today Transformation Church is a global ministry, but our roots were established in Tulsa, OK. One hundred years ago, our home was the site of the Greenwood Massacre, a historically brutal act of violence against the Black community,” the church wrote on Instagram. “The effects of these tragic events are still seen and felt throughout our city and nation. We know that only God can bring the healing that we need. Please join us as we continue to pray for the restoration of our land. Let’s continue to Re-Present in the present so we can transform our future.”