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Est. April 5, 2002
May 13, 2021 - Issue 865
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To me, the month of May has the feel of a Black August. Malcolm X was born on May 19. African Liberation Day is May 25. That's celebratory. What about May 13 and May 31 when two Black communities were treated like war enemies and leveled to the ground. Black bodies and Black futures were collateral damage.

Reminiscent of The Star-Bangled Banner, bombs were bursting in the air amidst the red glare. There was no refuge from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave. It is proof that anti-black hatred is alive. Tulsa, Oklahoma and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania are on record as the only domestic bombings in U.S. history. It is no accident that the targets were African-Americans.

The Tulsa Massacre took place on May 31 when white mobs responded to a false claim that a young white woman had been attacked by a Black teenager. By the time young Dick Rowland was arrested, the tale took on ugly dimensions. While Rowland escaped a lynching because the KKK couldn’t get him, the envious Klan took it out on Black Wall Street. It was nicknamed such because of its educational and financial prosperity.

The Tulsa Black community courageously defended itself but it wasn't a fair fight. Over the next couple of days, the homes and businesses in the Greenwood neighborhood were set ablaze and the finale was air raids by vigilantes in planes.

The Tulsa Massacre is said to be the worst in history although I don't know how one confirms the deaths when many Black folks ended up in unmarked graves. We know Greenwood was demolished and the coverup to bury the truth began. It has taken decades for the truth to be fully acknowledged although reparations have not been forthcoming.

Fast forward to Philly on May 13, 1985. Sick and tired of dealing with the naturalist group called MOVE, city officials led by the first African American mayor, made the sickening decision to bomb the MOVE compound. The fire from the incendiary could not be contained to a building. It soon enveloped the entire city block of Osage Avenue, reducing 61 homes to rubble.

Traumatic as losing homes were, nothing would surpass the deadly ambush of human beings fleeing an inferno. There were only two MOVE survivors; the others 11, including five children, perished.

Like the Tulsa bombing, the Osage massacre was also shielded from full public scrutiny and righteous condemnation. That's despite the reach of television and the advent of cell phones in the 80s.

This month, Tulsa is coming face to face with its traumatizing past. This is the 100th anniversary of the horrific event as we fight to make Black Lives Matter.

These two tragedies could be cause for celebration. Our lives, history and potential are literally and figuratively buried in time, over time. Our refusal to submit to white supremacy in all its many forms and survive a perpetual series of atrocities is a testament to our fierce determination and enduring resiliency as a people. Celebrate Black life. Editorial Board member and Columnist, Jamala Rogers, founder and Chair Emeritus of the Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis. She is an organizer, trainer and speaker. She is the author of The Best of the Way I See It – A Chronicle of Struggle. Other writings by Ms. Rogers can be found on her blog Contact Ms. Rogers and BC.

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is published Thursday
Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

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