I get off the plane in Tulsa Ok, ready for a weekend at a conference. The flight sent smooth from leaving Washington, DC, changing flights in Chicago, and landing in Tulsa. I met up with others from the conference that were also on the plane, got our bags, went outside the doors, and got punched in the face with the heat! It was 104 deg C! And don’t give me that ” it’s hot, but it’s a dry heat.” I’m pretty sure that is a saying the devil uses to trick people to visit him down under. I decide there is one way to handle the weekend: not be outside unless I absolutely have to. The conference is in the same hotel that we are staying anyway. Most of the meals are catered. The temp in my room is at a crisp 66 deg, C. I’m ready to take on the weekend.
Sat when exactly as planned. Did work, ate food, did not melt by going outside the hotel. Sunday morning went exactly as planned. Then, over lunch on Sunday sometime after filling up at the fajita bar, but before the tres leches cake, I was asked a question. “Have you been to Wall Street?” Seems like a random thing to ask right? Why ask the guy that lives near DC, about a place in New York, while visiting Oklahoma? Then it hits me, she means Black Wall St. Back in 1921, the Tulsa Race Riots took place. When you can find it in a history book, it is often referred to as one of the worst acts of violence in the US. After a lot of work and struggle, the area has been rebuilt. I’ve only ever read about the area in books. I’ve never been to the actual place. I lived in Germany when the Berlin wall came down. I’ve lived in places like Philadelphia and DC where I have visited time and time again places that had historical meaning.
That bit of history took place a 15 min walk from the hotel I’m staying. I vowed to not leave the hotel, but for this, I must make an exception. Taking an Uber crossed my mind, but I think about what I might miss on a quick drive. I guess after a day and a half of absorbing 66 deg C temps, I made it to the Greenwood district, where the riots took place. The train tracks still stood, but clearly, the rest was renewed. Modern shops lines both sides of the street. Brick shop front showcased businesses from commemorative souvenir shops to a hamburger place that seemed to stay busy. The sidewalk had metal plates that etched in them the business that used to be there, and if it was ever rebuilt. Many were not. The area is beautifully done despite the ugly history that is buried there.
I stopped into a museum about Greenwood, the riots, and the rebuilding (https://www.greenwoodrising.org/about). Reading the history of the Tulsa riots is hard, but necessary. Hearing these stories of individuals though shakes you to your soul. But I’m sure I needed it. We all need it. To really know that story. Every storyteller will attest that a story will change a person the way facts never could. I walk back to the hotel, with still more to process about what happened and what it means to me. Once back in my hotel room, I commence to colling down after my trek in the brutal temps today. Every now and again, deviating from the plan is exactly what needs to happen.