Clay Cane is a New York City-based writer who is recognized for his contributions in journalism. Clay is a regular contributor for various print and online publications such as The Advocate and BET.com. He is the author of the highly anticipated novel Ball-Shaped World, which is a fictionalized account of the black and Latino ballroom scene. Also, he is the Entertainment Editor at BET.com and a member of New York Film Critics Online. He can be reached at claycane@gmail.com.


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    Friday, May 25, 2007

    Today is the 86th Anniversary of Memorial Day Weekend of 1921, which is also known as the Tulsa Riots.

    Her name was Sarah Page, seventeen year-old white woman who worked as an elevator operator at the Drexel Building in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma. His name was Dick Rowland, a nineteen year-old black man who dropped out of school to shine shoes. He was also known as "Diamond Dick"...okay, you know what, I'm going to respect history and not go there, but that does sound like an alias name for DawgpoundUSA...!

    I digress...several black workers had jobs at the Drexel Building, but of course they were not allowed to use the restrooms on the first floor. The only restrooms that were available were on the top floor, which obviously required a trip on the elevator.

    On Memorial Day, Monday, May 30, 1921 with a parade outside, Dick Rowland got on the elevator operated by Sarah Page. No one knows what happens next...of course white folks at the time said Miss Sarah was raped by Rowland. Some have claimed Sarah and Diamond Dick were lovers, but Dick's family said he was so terrified of white people he would have never touched a white woman. I'm more than likely to believe the black folks.

    D-Dick supposedly walked into the elevator, tripped, tried to catch his balance and accidentally grabbed Sarah's arm. Well, Miss Sarah lost her God forsaken mind and hollered like an alley cat in heat! Rowland, scared out of his mind, immediately ran, but a nearby clerk heard the scream and saw a fleeing Negro. The clerk and Sarah decided she was raped. Quite conveniently, there are no records of a police interview with Sarah Page, but the po
    lice immediately went into a violent investigation. The next day the local paper read:

    "A few minutes later he entered the elevator she claimed, and attacked her, scratching her hands and face and tearing her clothes. Her screams brought a clerk from Renberg's store to her assistance and the Negro fled."

    In 1921 the Greenwood section of Tulsa, Okalahoma was a thriving city filled with banks, doctors, teachers, newspapers and endless wealthy black entrepreneurs. It was appropriately titled “Black Wall Street”. Due to the oil on the land (it’s always oil isn’t it?), the area was able to grown beyond any white person's imagination of black people. At one point Tulsa was called the "Oil Capital of the World". Yes, even back then Americans were fighting for oil. Black folks were working it out and doing amazingly well, even despite a racially segregated Tulsa. Obviously there were tons of resentment toward Black Wall Street from the whites in Tulsa. Miss Sarah Page was a perfect way to vent their white-privileged rage.

    After hearing of the “rape” white folks lost their cotton-pickin' mind. They stood outside the courthouse where Dick Rowland was being held and screamed, "Let us have the nigger!" The local newspaper claimed that Rowland would be lynched. There had never been a lynching in Tulsa and African-Americans in the thriving city weren't going to let it happen now, black folks went Downtown to protect Rowland. Over 100 hundred black men went to the courthouse with guns and rifles, but the white mob had over a thousand people.

    One of the bloodiest and unmentioned massacres in U.S. history began.

    One report claimed:

    "A white man approached a tall African American World War I veteran who was carrying an army-issue revolver.’Nigger', the white man said, 'What are you doing with that pistol?' 'I'm going to use it if I need to,' replied the black veteran. 'No, you give it to me.' Like hell I will.' The white man tried to take the gun away from the veteran, and a shot rang out."

    A shoot-out occurred and approximately a dozen blacks and whites were dead. After precious white lives were killed over 500 whites were sworn in by the police department and told, "Get a gun and get a nigger." Like serial killers that would be great accomplices for the Virginia Tech Murder, Cho Seung Hui, the possessed white men gunned any black person in sight.

    Rumors spread among the frantic whites that several blacks were coming to Tulsa and preparing to fight back for Black Wall Street. This caused an uproar and some reports claim as many as ten thousand whites came to Tulsa to fight off the educated, progressive and wealthy Negroes. At first the riot remained in downtown Tulsa, but the 10,000 screaming maniacs invaded the Greenwood section—Black Wall Street.

    White men armed with guns and liquor bottles, horrific murders, lootings and fires took place. One eyewitness said:

    “There was an aged colored couple, saying their evening prayers before retiring in their little home on Greenwood Avenue. A mob broke into the house, shot both of the old people in the backs of their heads, blowing their brains out and spattering them over the bed, pillaged the home, and then set fire to it.”

    Many blacks were fighting back; therefore, the National Guard was called in to help control a "Negro Uprising". In the morning of June 1st the National Guard brought in airplanes, which flew over Black Wall Street and began shooting every black person in sight. They dropped bombs of "liquid gas", an eyewitness said, and proceeded to issue total devastation to the entire town. Reports say one set of explosives were dropped directly on a black family attempting to flee the city. The terror was endless.

    Believe it or cotton-pickin' not, over 85 African-Americans were indicted. Not one white person was charged.

    Sarah Page dropped all charges against Dick Rowland, the man who was accused of rape. Once charges were dropped Rowland moved to Kansas City never to return to Tulsa again.


    THE CITY OF TULSA GOT THEIR OIL BACK.

    Tulsa has never taken accountability for the well-documented monstrosity. Attempts in 1997, 2001 and 2003 were made to give reparations to the descendants of the families, five survivors were still alive in 2001 and they were led by legendary attorney Johnnie Cochran. However, the federal district courts claimed under the statue of limitations an 80-year-old case is not valid and the Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

    HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY!

    For more info on Black Wall Street click here: http://blackwallstreet.org/bwshistory/bwstulsa1830-1921.m.htm

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    Posted by Clay :: 12:00 AM :: 11 comments

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