Editorial: Oklahoma literary giant Ralph Ellison to be honored
By World’s Editorials Writers | Posted: Thursday, March 6, 2014 12:00 am
A portrait of Oklahoma author Ralph Ellison will be unveiled on the second floor of the state Capitol on Thursday.
2014 is the centennial of Ellison’s birth in Oklahoma City, and official recognition inside the Capitol is well-deserved.
There is little doubt that Ellison is one of the greatest authors to call Oklahoma his home, though his fame is based almost entirely on one book.
His novel “Invisible Man” is a stunning look at black life in the early part of the 20th century. It tells the story of a man who is buffeted by events as a series of manipulators philanthropists, educators, radicals and criminals use him for their own advantage.
He ends up beaten, empty and nameless living underground, stealing power from the electrical utility and “invisible.”
Winning the 1953 National Book Award for fiction, “Invisible Man,” was recognized almost immediately as a masterwork.
Ellison struggled with a follow-up. In 1967, a house fire destroyed more than 300 pages of his second novel “Juneteenth.” He would eventually write more than 2,000 pages on the book, but he never finished it.
Nevertheless, he remained a leading black intellectual, especially noted for his essays on jazz and literature. Ellison died in 1994 and was buried in New York City.
Ellison’s writing is brilliant, but his ideas are challenging. It could be argued that Ellison has not gotten sufficient note in his home state.
A public library and the street that runs in front of Classen School of Advanced Studies in Oklahoma City are named in honor of Ellison, but lesser talents have gotten far greater recognition.
It is appropriate for the state Capitol to include a portrait of Ellison. He is literary giant and a great Oklahoman.
Film Premiere: Hate Crimes in the Heartland
January 23rd, 2014 -
Tulsa, OK — Hate Crimes in the Heartland, a new documentary explores the 250,000 hate crimes committed in the United States each year through the lens of two hate crimes in Tulsa, Oklahoma. On February 3, 2014, Greenwood Cultural Center presents the world premiere of Hate Crimes in the Heartland during Black History Month.
“There has been a sharp increase in violent hate crimes, whether based on religion, sexuality or most often based on race. The film speaks to media, race, crime and punishment in a way that encourages constructive dialogue,” states producer/director Rachel Lyon. “Tulsa’s story can help America heal our seemingly intractable racial wounds and help halt the cycle of violence that erupts all too often,” asserts Co-‐Producer, Pi-‐Isis Ankhra.
The Greenwood Cultural Center, a natural partner to the film, has been a part of the education and rebuilding process of the black community in the aftermath of the 1921 Race Riot. The Center is dedicated to rebuilding the thriving center of commerce of Greenwood that was once considered America’s “Black Wall Street”. The Greenwood Cultural Center and the George Kaiser Family Foundation seek to engage minority, student and interfaith community members at Hate Crimes in the Heartland. The film allows audiences to focus on solutions, local heroes and distinguished speakers.
“We have been engaged with this film centered in Tulsa from the beginning,” states Executive Director of the Greenwood Cultural Center, Frances Jordan Rakestraw. “We are proud to present this film which explores Tulsa’s own explosive racial history, while focusing audiences on hope and reconciliation.”
Like no other documentary exploring this topic, Hate Crimes in the Heartland tells powerful stories of survivors, activists, leaders, and community members. The film explores current and past hate crimes in our nation, asking important questions related to social justice, our individual and collective responsibility along with a true examination of the media’s influence on the justice system.
The film begins in Tulsa in April 2012, when two white males drove through the African-‐American Greenwood neighborhood targeting blacks at random, killing three people and leaving two others in critical condition. Community leaders united with government and law enforcement, who led a successful manhunt. The film follows the murders, social media uproar, manhunt, and capture of the suspects, who in late December pleaded guilty and will now serve life in prison. The film compares this current hate crime to the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot. In 1921, the white-‐led attack on the black community, the largest race riot in America, burned down the wealthy “Negro Wall Street” district of Greenwood, leaving up to 300 dead and more than 10,000 homeless. This event was not recorded in history books for decades.
More than 90 years later, two crimes reveal the story of the racial animosity and inequality that have come to define modern American society and culture. Hate Crimes in the Heartland explores these events, exposing an All-‐American city forever divided, and revealing the dangerous connections between the media, power, race, and justice.
Filmmaker and Emmy Award winner Rachel Lyon has created 65 films, documentaries and international series. Her films focus on human and civil rights issues specializing on films dealing with media, race, crime and punishment. Co-‐Producer Pi-‐Isis Ankhra brings 16 years of experience within the philanthropic industry and focuses her current efforts on engaging diverse audiences around stories that surface social and cultural issues often underrepresented in mainstream media.
National partners on Hate Crimes in the Heartland include Harvard Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, DePaul University’s Center for Justice in Capital Cases, New Jersey City University and Northern Kentucky University’s College of Informatics. National screenings include events in New York, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Miami and New Jersey City.
Huffington Post: The People’s Politics of Nelson Mandela
December 10th, 2013 -
Posted: 12/09/2013 7:22 pm
Across the world, people have rightly celebrated Nelson Mandela as a figure who “now belongs to the ages,” as President Barack Obama put it in his tribute to the late South African leader. But recognition of his people’s politics has been largely absent. We need to switch from the dominant “great man” view of Mandela as a singular savior of South Africa to an understanding of his citizen-empowering politics if we are to do justice to his legacy and its potential for contribution to a world in turmoil and crisis.
Nelson Mandela was a populist not in the sense in which the term is commonly used in the media, to mean a rabble-rousing demagogue. Mandela was a populist in the deepest meaning of term. He had a profound and also unromantic belief in the potential of everyday citizens to shape the world.
Today’s public discussion of Nelson Mandela is decontextualized and depoliticized, as well as sanctified. Lost is his schooling in the ancient civic culture of the Eastern Cape.
Mandela was born in Mvezo, a tiny village in the Transkei, in the southeast of South Africa. When his father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyisa, was stripped of his chieftainship after defying British authority, he was taken into the home of the paramount chief of the Thembu people.
In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela described the meetings at “the Great Place,” Mquhekezweni. “Everyone who wanted to speak did so. It was democracy in its purest form. There may have been a hierarchy of importance among the speakers but everyone was heard, chief and subject, warrior and medicine man, shopkeeper and farmer, landowner and laborer. … All were free to voice their opinions and equal in their value as citizens.”
These experiences became seasoned in the anti-apartheid movement of the 1950s called the Congress of the People (CoP). It produced the Freedom Charter of 1955, the anti-apartheid movement’s manifesto, and aimed at a national awakening instilling freedom consciousness.
In the view of its organizers, the people, not the African National Congress or other political parties, were the driving force of change. As one leader, Rusty Bernstein put it, the ideas of the Charter needed to be “an exercise in getting the people to tell the leadership and self-regarding elites what THEY ought to work for in the name of the people.”
The Congress of the People also challenged anti-apartheid whites to organize in their own communities. Estranged from the white mainstream, they were largely unable to do so.
This movement powerfully shaped Mandela. The Charter, he argued was “by no means a blueprint for a socialist state.” Rather it was “a programme for unification” involving “a democratic struggle of various classes and political groupings.”
Mandela’s schooling generated a clear distinction in his thinking between ideological politics, or “party politics,” and people’s politics. The distinction is clear in an interview published last year in the Australian journal Thesis Eleven with Jakes Gerwel, aide to Mandela throughout his presidency.
Mandela, Gerwel argued, stressed psychological liberation akin to the emphasis of Black Consciousness Movement leader Steve Biko. “Not to be victim to your suffering [and] to be victim of those who perpetrated it against you … He rose above that by the generosity of spirit….”
Gerwel traced such generosity to Mandela’s politics. “People often talk about Mandela’s values,” Gerwel said. “The thing that I remember him teaching me was: ‘Jakes, never let your enemy choose the terrain of combat by reacting in anger. If you act in anger to anybody, you are allowing that person to choose the terrain.’ This was a combination of genuine principled morals with a great tactical sense.”
Gerwel emphasized that “Mandela is a politician through and through. He understands party politics and politics to his finger tips. He is not a saint, and he often made that point. He is a hard politician [who] uses power and his political agency for the good.”
In his prison years on Robben Island, Mandela further developed his commitment to nonracial people’s politics. Afrikaner guards who smuggled in newspapers for him to read, provided extra rations, and taught him Afrikaans, the main language of the white population, tempered any desire for racial recrimination.
Meanwhile, exchanges with young hotheads brought home the dangers of a politics of posture. “When you say, ‘What are you going to do?’ they say, ‘We will attack and destroy them!’” he recounted. “I say: ‘All right, have you analyzed how strong they are? Have you compared their strength to your strength?’”
In 1986, Mandela, still in prison, began negotiations with moderates in the National Party government. Simultaneously, parallel efforts began to appear among whites on a large scale.
In 1986, Van Zyl Slabbert and Alex Boraine, leaders of the white opposition party in the South African Parliament, resigned in frustration at the Parliament’s inability to address the country’s growing crisis. They founded the Institute for a Democratic Alternative for South Africa (Idasa), with the aim of generating discussion and work across the deepening racial divide. Slabbert called this “the politics of negotiation.” Their politics, in the same vein as Mandela’s, took up the challenge to whites made by the Congress of the People and leaders like Mandela, more than thirty years before.
For most whites in South Africa in the 1980s, the everyday lives, concerns, talents, and oppressive conditions of blacks were invisible. Idasa’s work closely paralleled Mandela’s efforts.
In 1987 in Dakar, Senegal, the organization brought together white moderates among politicians, labor unionists, journalists, religious and business leaders with exile leaders of the African National Congress for the first time. The meeting reverberated around the world. Over the next seven years, Idasa followed up by organizing hundreds of meetings which brought whites together with blacks, colored and Indians.
After the 1994 election, Idasa became the leading force on the African continent emphasizing the idea that democracy is a society, not simply a state. Its grassroots popular education efforts taught organizing community methods and nonpartisan empowering citizen politics to thousands of people. Throughout its history, Mandela remained Idasa’s friend.
Nelson Mandela believed that ordinary citizens can become bold, confident, responsible agents of change, able to rise to the occasion of even the most daunting challenges. He devoted his life to seeing the democratic potential of the people realized.
The wisdom of his people’s politics has never been more needed.
Harry Boyte, Director of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg College and Senior Fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, lives several months a year in South Africa, where he is also a Visiting Professor at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
Radio: What’s Up with the JHF Dinner?
October 24th, 2013 -
Our partners at KJMM are running ads about the November 21 Dinner of Reconciliation. Click below to listen!
With the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, OETA Oklahoma Forum host Dick Pryor sat down with leaders from the African American community to discuss the event and the impact on today’s race relations.
SPONSORS: 100 Black Men of Tulsa; Women With The 100; Oklahoma Representative Kevin Matthews; Oklahoma Senator Jabar Shumate; Oklahoma Representative Seneca Scott; and Tulsa City Councilor Jack Henderson
DATE: Saturday, September 21, 2013, beginning at 9:30 a.m.
LOCATION: John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park
Tulsa, Oklahoma—Oklahoma Representative Kevin Matthews, Oklahoma Senator Jabar Shumate, Oklahoma Representative Seneca Scott, and Tulsa City Councilor Jack Henderson, along with the 100 Black Men of Tulsa and the Women With The 100, will host a community walk through the historic Greenwood District on Saturday, September 21st. The event promotes cultural awareness, literacy, health/wellness, and entrepreneurship. Beginning at John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park at 9:30 a.m., the event opening features special remarks by Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan and the leadership of the Tulsa Police Department Black Officers Coalition.
The walk will proceed from John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park through the Greenwood District to the Greenwood Cultural Center, where community volunteers will serve as special guest readers for children six years old and younger. The walk will continue north past OSU-Tulsa and Langston-Tulsa. Participants will continue down the running trail on Greenwood to Pine Street. As participants walk back to B.S. Roberts Park, swing dance demonstrations and announcements on healthcare initiatives will be highlighted.
This event is free and open to the public. Contributions and donations are encouraged, and will be used to promote the work of 100 Black Men of Tulsa. Tax-deductible gifts will help fund the 2014 Summer Entrepreneurship Program, an internship and mentoring initiative that achieved astounding success in 2013. Gifts should be made to:
100 Black Men of Tulsa, Inc.
ATTN: Entrepreneur Shadow Program
P.O. Box 2735
Tulsa, OK 74101
2013 Race Against Racism
April 15th, 2013 -
Don’t miss this event sponsored by our friends and partners at the Tulsa YWCA!
Saturday, April 27, 2013
9:00am: 1 Mile Justice Walk/Fun Run
9:30am: Chip-timed 5K
Race starts between ONEOK Field and the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park Click here for more information
Exhibition: Sight Unseen
February 21st, 2013 -
Artist in Residence Eyakem Gulilat
Curated by Tumelo Mosaka
February 22 – May 19
The Hardesty Arts Center [AHHA] will debut its inaugural Artist In Residence art exhibition on February 22, 2013. Site Unseen will feature artist Eyakem Gulilat’s photographs focused on the history of the Greenwood District. Curated by Tumelo Mosaka, the exhibition is a study of the landscape in northern Tulsa and it’s century-old artifacts related to the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. Read the rest of this entry »
Job Announcement: Director
January 23rd, 2013 -
The John Hope Franklin Board of Directors is seeking a director. To apply, submit a cover letter and resume by February 28th to:
John Hope Franklin Center of Reconciliation, Inc. Attention: Human Resources Department
121 North Greenwood Avenue, Suite A Tulsa, OK 74120
Or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
While honoring the past, the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation [JHFCR] is writing a new story – a narrative of cooperation and trust. The Center’s mission is to transform society’s divisions into social harmony through the serious study and work of reconciliation. Through education, scholarship, and community outreach, the Center has positioned itself at the forefront of a national dialogue on reconciliation – finding new ways for Americans to live together well.
The Center is seeking its first Director. The successful candidate must possess a demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusivity; be an exceptional communicator; serve as an effective and approachable “face” of the organization; and work tirelessly to create, sustain, and strengthen community alliances. S/he will implement the strategic planning and the Center’s fundraising efforts. Experience managing staff (paid and volunteer) is essential as is the ability to manage conflict constructively. Reports directly to the JHFCR Executive Committee. Read the rest of this entry »
Tulsa World: Students win award for Tulsa Race Riots project
January 6th, 2013 -
BY KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer
Monday, December 24, 2012
12/24/2012 7:54:12 AM
BROKEN ARROW – Two Sequoyah Middle School eighth-graders won a national history award for their project about a major event that doesn’t even appear in many history books.
Josh Gallegor, 14, and Preston Myer, 13, won the Oklahoma Outstanding Achievement award for their seventh-grade history project and placed 10th in the nation – among seventh-graders to 12th-graders – in the National History Day competition.
“We were searching for things that were close to Oklahoma and weren’t well-known,” Myer said.
The pair discovered a pivotal event in Tulsa and American history they had never heard about – the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot. Read the rest of this entry »