Nothing is OK in Moore and it seems nothing has been okay there for a long, long time. Today, the New York Times reports that residents in Moore are questioning whether to rebuild or not. It seems to be a question that lingers in the air here as we approach June 1st and our next hurricane season – what next? Nobody knows. The future is uncertain.
But the past is not.
History – who records our history? News – who tells us the news?
I write about Oklahoma in dangermond.org, someone fills in the history blanks:
Between May 31 and June 1, 1921, a group of white folks (aka Haters) in Tulsa, Oklahoma, attacked the Greenwood District, also known as the “Black Wall Street” literally burning it to the ground. During the assault, more than 800 whites were admitted to local white hospitals with injuries (the Black hospital was burned down so you can only imagine how and where Black folks were treated) and the police arrested and detained more than 6,000 Black Greenwood residents for their protection. An estimated 10,000 Blacks were left homeless, and 35 city blocks composed of 1,256 residences were destroyed by fire. The official count of the dead by the Oklahoma Department of Vital Statistics was 39, but other estimates of black fatalities have been up to about 300.
The events of the riot were long omitted from local and state histories and the riot was rarely mentioned. In 1967 an R&B group formed and named themselves the “Greenwood, Archer and Pine Street Band” as a way of paying homage to the Black Community of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The group later changed its name to the GAP Band (Hummm, bet you’ll never listen to “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” quite the same).
With the number of survivors declining, in 1996, the state legislature commissioned a report to establish the historical record of the events, and acknowledge the victims and damages to the Black community. Released in 2001, the report included the commission’s recommendations for some compensatory actions. The state has passed legislation to establish some scholarships for descendants of survivors, economic development of Greenwood, and a memorial park to the victims in Tulsa. The latter was dedicated in 2010.
On Monday, May 20, 2013, Moore, Oklahoma (about 1 1/2 hours from Tulsa) experienced a massive tornado that was 17 miles long, over 1 mile wide, left at least 24 people dead and has an estimated destruction value of 2 billion dollars.
Synecdoches – A biblical flood, a devastating tornado = mother nature; oppression, greed = man’s nature.
Is nature immutable? – a post for another occasion.
History is slanted.
News is biased.
from “Qu’on Arrive Enfin (a tale in-progress)”
and so we arrive at last in our native land —
the earth itself marked by slavery.
up there, in the open air, the stink, the hot funk of hot blood
the rowdy rebel-niggers of the past.
how we always return to this —
the city, the life
that slavery built,
tales altogether invented
as told by historians, founding fathers, the church.
but we are sick and tired of lies, dirty tricks and fraud,
we are sick of tales and of historians
sick of indigo, tobacco, rice and rum
we are sick of king-cotton and sugar cane
sick of it all
and can only wish hard-hard-hard
that the lakes, the bayous, swamps large and small
will have swallowed it all
erased it all.
~ History and Other Poems by Brenda Marie Obsey, a New Orleans poet.
A tornado flew around my room before you came
Excuse the mess it made, it usually doesn’t rain
In Southern California, much like Arizona
My eyes don’t shed tears, but boy they bawl when
~ Thinkin About You by Frank Ocean (written after the 2005 Federal Flood forced him out of New Orleans to California)
Here in New Orleans the man-made and natural got entangled in a disaster – yet, we came home to rebuild – rebuild or leave, we shouted, only to notice our old ghosts haunting us, we notice the disaster hasn’t eviscerated the old disaster – sneaking into the telling of our history is a graveyard of oppressors, a gumbo of oppressed. Our stories are not immutable. Southerners live their narratives (said Eudora Welty).