TULSA, OKLA. -- Organizers of the I, too, am America: Juneteenth for Justice announced Rev. Al Sharpton will be the headline speaker for the first day of Juneteenth celebrations on Friday, June 19 outdoors at 700 N. Greenwood Ave, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74106. The event is scheduled to begin at 11 AM and end at 10 PM.
Rev. Sharpton will attend the event as a guest of the Crutcher Family, who have been vocal advocates for policing reform since the death of their family member Terence Crutcher. Crutcher was unarmed when he was shot and killed by a Tulsa police officer in 2016.
In steadfast solidarity with the Greenwood community in their calls for justice for Terence Crutcher, Joshua Barre, Joshua Harvey and every victim of police brutality in Tulsa and across the nation, Rev. Sharpton will call for sweeping reforms within the Tulsa Police Department and nationwide. Frustrations with watered-down national, state and local efforts disguised as reform have spurred increased calls-to-action.
This month also marks 99 years since the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. On May 31 through June 1 1921, mobs of white residents stormed Tulsa’s affluent Greenwood district, burning down the enclave known as Black Wall Street. Up to 300 Black people were murdered, 35 square blocks were burned to the ground, and scores of businesses were destroyed. Although it has been called one of the worst incidents of racial violence in US history, no one was ever charged with a crime for the violence or compensated for the loss of life and economic devastation.
This year’s event will commemorate the history and resilience of Greenwood while raising awareness of the racial disparities that continue. Greenwood community organizers are calling for ending structural racism in the city, including Tulsa’s epidemic of racially biased and abusive policing. Recently, a top Tulsa police major said in an interview that police shoot Blacks “less than we probably ought to.” That same week, a disturbing video captured Tulsa police violently detaining two young Black boys for allegedly jaywalking on a street with no sidewalks.
Despite claims from the Trump administration that systemic racism in law enforcement is a myth, a recent report from Human Rights Watch found that Tulsa police subject Black Tulsans to violence -- including pepper spray and tasers -- at alarmingly higher rates. In light of the report’s findings, including lower life expectancies for Black residents in Tulsa and higher rates of poverty compared to white residents, the organization has joined Greenwood community leaders in calling for reparations.
The Reverend will speak at the Juneteenth commemoration and call on all Americans to join the Black community in the ongoing, centuries-long fight for justice and reform.
The celebration, originally scheduled for one day of events, was extended through Saturday evening to accommodate the significant interest from the community and surrounding areas. Organizers have taken extreme precautions to ensure this weekend is safe for attendees and the general community. Special provisions have been implemented to prevent COVID-19 transmission, including over 20,000 reusable masks to be provided to all attendees, hand sanitizing stations, guest education, specially trained volunteers, and social distancing measures. All attendees are very strongly encouraged to wear their masks and practice recommended social distancing practices at all times.
The schedule of events is expansive and includes multiple speakers, live music and entertainment, poetry, a dedication ceremony, and more. Multiple food trucks and non-food vendors will be on-site. A kid’s zone will feature horse riding, field sports, tables games, and free food for children. Details for Saturday’s celebration will follow.