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Black History Saturdays on OWN TV’s Rebuilding Black Wall Street

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GREENWOOD Dist.–Historic Vernon AME Church will host a watch party for North Tulsa’s grassroots Black History Saturdays program. It’ll be featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network’s “Rebuilding Black Wall Street” series on Friday, October 27, at 7 p.m.

Mainstream media’s portrayal of Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District, home to the original Black Wall Street, is usually full of trauma. On Friday night, however, the legacy of triumph will be on full display.

Kristi Williams is chair of the Greater Tulsa Area African American Affairs Commission. She’s also a descendant of Tulsa Race Massacre survivors. Williams launched Black History Saturdays in February. The monthly classes remain free for families with a breakfast included.

Williams has been an outspoken advocate for seeking justice and national awareness for the Massacre. It came at the cost of friendships, her job and her mental wellbeing, she explains in the episode.

Yet, she persevered. Now, she’s one of the most sought after interviewees for documentaries, news stories and projects about Black Wall Street.

Filling in the gap

The Feb. 4 launch of Black History Saturdays came after a century of silence around the destruction of Black Wall Street.

It also came after Oklahoma passed a law that limits critical discussions on race in the classroom. On paper, HB 1775 prevents educators from teaching one race is better or inferior to another. Yet in practice, the law has limited lessons on systemic racism and history that make White students or their parents uncomfortable.

In a private Facebook post, one of the bill’s authors admitted it was meant to protect one race of students.

Tulsa Public Schools faced a downgrading of their accreditation after a conservative teacher complained about teacher training that included lessons on racial bias.

The district houses one of the largest populations of Black students in the state. It continues to face targeting by the far-right Christian nationalist State Superintendent Ryan Walters.

In a previous interview with The Black Wall Street Times, Williams said she wants to provide students with a holistic understanding of their history.

“Because it’s important to know who we are, and not the narrative that society has given to us, because our history did not start with slavery,” Williams said.

vernon ame church black history saturdays
The first day of Black History Saturdays at Edurec center in North Tulsa, Oklahoma on Feb. 4, 2023. (Kristi Williams / Facebook)

Historic Vernon AME Church hosts watch party

Located at 311 N. Greenwood Ave, Vernon AME Church will provide a watch party for Tulsans interested in viewing the episode. It’s free and open to the public.

Notably, the church’s basement is the only structure on Black Wall Street that survived the government-sanctioned Massacre.

Over a century after the Tulsa Race Massacre, the Vernon AME Church has been restored with federal support.

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Black History Saturdays screening at Vernon AME Church

The overarching goal of Black History Saturdays is to “enhance public knowledge, foster youth engagement, and equip the next generation of change-makers with the historical and cultural knowledge that will inspire them to make a meaningful impact within their communities,” according to a press release.

The classes are hosted at EduRec, a Black-owned recreational and educational facility in North Tulsa.

EduRec owner Charles Harper was excited to give participants of Black History Saturdays “ a safe environment” to come in and learn, he told The Black Wall Street Times earlier this year.

Black History Saturdays founder Kristi Williams, bottom right, takes a photo with EduRec owner Charles Harper, left, and producers from Oprah Winfrey Network’s Rebuilding Black Wall Street Series. (Courtesy of Kristi Williams/Facebook)

Building our own with Black History Saturdays

In June, Black History Saturdays featured an Archaeology Night with Dr. Alicia Odewale. She’s a University of Tulsa professor and African Diaspora archaeologist.

As one of few Black archaeologists in the country, Dr. Odewale spearheaded a research project called Mapping the Historical Trauma of Tulsa. The project aims to digitally map historical sites in Tulsa and uncover artifacts through collaborative archeology.

Friday night’s premiere of the fifth episode of OWN’s Rebuilding Black Wall Street will introduce Black History Saturdays to a national audience.

States across the country continue to stifle education on Black history. However, Williams hopes the success of Black History Saturdays in Tulsa will help provide a blueprint for other communities around the nation.

“We have to start creating an economy within this economy just like our ancestors did,” Williams said. “They built their own schools. Why can’t we build our own place where our community can come in on a Saturday and learn Black history? So that’s what I did.”

To learn more about Black History Saturdays, visit their website.

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