Find Anti-Racism Awareness Resources compiled by Hallie Q. Brown Community Center’s Executive Director, Jonathan Palmer, by clicking the link above or clicking here. This compilation is a living document, is by no means a comprehensive list, and will be continually updated. Do you have suggestions for articles or books to add? Use our contact form to send us your ideas.
100 Years Later: Tulsa and the History of America | Originally published June 1, 2021
Dear Friends of Hallie Q. Brown,
It has been 100 years and we are only now, as a country, beginning to learn the truth of one of the most horrific events of racial violence in America’s history, the Tulsa Massacre.
On May 30, 1921, a 19 year-old Black shoe shiner, took a break from his stand inside a local pool hall to use the restroom. He walked from the hall to the Drexel Building which housed the only “Colored” public restroom in the segregated city of Tulsa. He tripped as he entered the open wire-caged elevator operated by Sarah Page, a 17 year-old White person, and instinctively grabbed for anything to catch himself, which happened to be Ms. Page’s arm (in some accounts he stepped on her foot). Ms. Page was startled and screamed. When the elevator opened, Mr. Rowland ran out and a clerk in a department store in the building called the police. But it was the store clerk, not Ms. Page, who assumed that Mr. Rowland tried to assault her and reported this to the police. Ms. Page refused to press charges against Mr. Rowland, and there are some sources that say they knew each other and were even involved. The clerk’s false claim, plus an inflammatory article, “Nab Negro for Attacking Girl in Elevator“, and an editorial in the Tulsa Tribune are what set things in motion. The editorial, “To Lynch Negro Tonight” according to witnesses, appeared in the city version of the same edition and reported on plans of White residents to lynch Rowland that night. However, all copies of this edition have either gone missing or have the editorial section torn out.
What followed is as unprecedented as it is unknown. A half hour after the Tribune hit the streets, talk of lynching circulated the White community. Three hours after, a lynch mob of hundreds of White men headed to the courthouse where Rowland was being held. They were met by 25 Black armed WWI veterans who set up at the courthouse to protect Rowland. A group of an additional 75 veterans soon joined them, which enraged the White mob. A shot was fired, and that is when “all hell broke loose,” resulting in a firefight that left ten White men and two Black men dead, which then exploded into throngs of White men moving through the Greenwood district, setting fire to every building, shooting everyone, pillaging businesses. It was the first time that bombs were dropped on American soil as the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) dropped them from the air. As many as 300 Black residents were killed, 35 square blocks were burned to the ground, 10,000 people were left homeless, 191 businesses were destroyed, and the equivalent in today’s dollars of approximately $32M in personal and business damages were done. This was a truly major event in American history.
And yet an overwhelming number of people in our country learned about this tragedy not from history books or classes, but rather the opening scene of HBO’s acclaimed superhero drama, Watchmen last year. This scene was so intense and so incredible that the internet blew up with people searching for information and asking the question, was it real. Stop and consider that for a moment. That one of the most significant events of this country has been so buried and minimized, that a fantasy television show did more to enlighten this country in 4 minutes than history text books over the past 4 decades. Were this only the sin of omission that people refer to it as, you could simply incorporate it in lessons and highlight the necessary change. But unfortunately, it is a much more purposeful act of revisionism and suppression done intentionally to both marginalize the Black community and avoid culpability for the actions of the Tulsa Massacre. It lays precedent for other incidents and instances.
While they may have reveled in the fervor of the destruction, the Chamber of Commerce, elected officials and Sheriff very quickly realized how much of a public relations issue this was…not how horrific an act it was, but how much it would affect the city’s reputation and the impact on being considered a cosmopolitan city and the oil capitol in the US. Actions took place rather quickly, the editorial page being ripped out before the Tribune could be transferred to microfiche, the Police Chief sending officers to White photography studios to collect photos and negatives or images of the riot (they were being used to create postcards among other things), and articles report on this incident as a “riot” by the Black residents. The city and state promptly buried it, literally. In October 2020, the first mass grave was uncovered, and is set to begin examination. In addition, in 2001, the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 released its final report, revealing that the city had conspired with the White mob and recommended reparations, among other things. In 2010, a park to commemorate the victims opened and in 2020, the massacre was added to the Oklahoma school curriculum.
It took 99 years to add one of the most significant historical events in their state to their curriculum! This is more than a sin of omission: it is the absence of knowledge that places our Black and brown communities out of context in our country. The myths and the stereotypes that have fostered racial hatred and violence could largely be avoided if we had an accurate reflection of our country’s history and culpability. Black people have been stereotyped as lazy and freeloading…ever since Slavery ended and we stopped “working for free.” We have been told to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and if we don’t like our neighborhood, to move, ignoring the impact that redlining has had on opportunity for homeownership and generating wealth — especially when you consider between 1934 and 1962, when the federal government issued $120B in resources for home ownership and less than 2% went to non-Whites. We have been characterized as criminals because we are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, but with no eye towards the inequitable enforcement of that law and the discrimination, maltreatment and even death we face at a disproportional rate, many times ending in fatality like George Floyd.
The solution here is really rather easy and presents minimal financial cost: record and teach history accurately. Remember and relate the experiences of Black Wall Street, Rosewood, Rondo Neighborhood and so many more across our country. Tell the stories of the people who had impact and moving our country forward from Phyllis Wheatley to Katherine Johnson to Hallie Quinn Brown, and so many others. The absence of these elements, of a full and fair accounting of Slavery and its impact has a direct causal relationship to the racial injustice of today. The White community, by and large, is unaware of how much these experiences have shaped the world and their perceptions. Truly understanding how much of this country was built on the backs of and at the expense of the lives of Black and brown people changes the dynamic and understanding of how we arrived here. Knowing this can change the conversation from adversarial to empathetic and help this country honestly begin to heal.
And in my opinion, that is one of the best things we can do.
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE HISTORY OF THE TULSA MASSACRE:
One Year Later | Originally published May 25, 2021
We Must Do Better: Statement from Executive Director Jonathan Palmer | Originally published April 30, 2021
I wrote this poem on Tuesday night, 4/19/20, not knowing the verdict would come out the next day. Like most everyone, I was thrilled at the outcome, one I never expected to see in my lifetime. Our country has a long history of allowing White people in positions of power and authority to abuse, marginalize and even killed Black people and other persons of color without retribution or consequence. That has been the practice. That has been the procedure. That has been the law.
So while so many of us held hope, we’d been down this road before and the expectation of receiving some measure of justice, was not in keeping with the patterns of the past. So to receive the result we did, to see the law upheld, was incredible. We took another step closer in changing the world for the better.
And changing the world is what we now have to do. It is the charge left to us by George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Daunte Wright…I could continue on, but then that list is all this letter would be, there would be no space left to talk about the future. And the future is where we need to be because we have too many people who are stuck in the past.
Now this is not the same as knowing the past, understanding our history and how it has laid the foundation for what we’re experiencing today. We have too much of the past that has been ignored, covered or overlooked, which is a major factor in why the world is where it is today: overwhelmed with systemic racism, imbued with disparity and injustice, and chocked full of entitlement and privilege masquerading as “freedom”. Being stuck in the past is to not grow and change as you mature, to not evolve your thinking as you are presented with new information or old is proven wrong.
Derek Chauvin is a reflection of this. A person, entrusted with the authority, the public trust and the responsibility to protect and serve, but being stuck in the past, he failed this city, its residents and himself by betraying that duty and murdering a defenseless Black man. He had a fair trial and was found guilty. The system worked in this instance and anyone who cares about right, safety or truth should be elated that justice was serve –“should” being the operative word there because there are still scores of people who think he should not have been held accountable, worst still that what he did was justified. Scores of people stuck in the past.
Stop and consider that for a moment, because the issue runs deeper than the unjustified murder. Consider the preparation for the trial: barbed wire, concrete blocks, National Guard and law enforcement brought in from other states all in anticipation of the reaction to the verdict. This tells you two things: 1. The public expected Chauvin to be found not guilty; and 2. The public expected the community to riot, largely because the majority of people involved were Black and brown. This is where we find ourselves, the notion of justice is so far beyond conception that we expect the guilty to be proclaimed innocent and the innocent to be guilty. And unfortunately this is not a new thing.
It is perhaps ironic that 29 years ago today, a mostly-White Jury acquitted the 4 officers that savagely beat Rodney King, the first recognized time that the kind of abuse Black and brown people face from law enforcement was captured on video. It has taken nearly 30 years to secure a conviction of this magnitude also caught on video. Back then, I was at Morehouse College, and we marched that night in protest. A day and a half later, the police had cordoned off the Atlanta University Center, where Morehouse, Spelman and other HBCUs are located, at 8am. I was there as police stormed the campuses in full riot gear, and dropped tear gas from helicopters and shot it into dorms all as a pre-emptive measure against any “uprising” or protests”. Two very similar situations, separated by nearly three decades, with the same negative expectation on communities of color.
Yet when there was a credible threat on January 6th in the Nation’s Capitol, which they had been forewarned about, law enforcement erected the same amount of defensive measures that you find at a Taylor Swift concert.
But these incidents are merely endemic of the culture of our country. A country steeped in the notion of freedom and justice, yet denying it for people whose skin is darker than the majority. There is one recurring theme that arises through these situations, one notion that has been taught, infused and trained into our mindset: America should be afraid of Black people.
America has been taught a contradictory and dichotomous view of Black people, to fear us while simultaneously to depend on and use us. This is not because of any power we hold or any measure of action we have taken, but because we have been subjugated for over 400 years and throughout that time, the injustice inherent in our treatment, breeds a fear of retribution. The White community has been lied to and told it was necessary or else we would murder, rape and abuse them—all the things that were being done to us—in order foster this notion and prejudice. We have been the bogeymen in the story of this country, while simultaneously building and maintaining it.
Nowhere is this more clear than the relationship the Black community has with law enforcement. Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than White people, yet we are 1.3 times more likely to be unarmed than White people when this happens. We also make up 13% of the US population as compared to White people at 76%. But it is not restricted to law enforcement. The median net worth of White households is ten times the median net worth of Black households, the median income of Black households is less than 60% of the median income of White households. Approximately 20% of Black households live in poverty in comparison to approximately 8% of White households.
Consider that for a moment. The disparity exists in all factors across the United States, systemic racism permeates our community making a fair opportunity rarely achievable, and failure and disparity an almost certainty. It makes the American Dream a dream deferred. We can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to or submissively accept the conditions and the injustices this country visits on Black and brown communities and people. Systemic racism is woven into the fabric of our society and incorporated into every aspect of our policies and laws, policies and laws designed to maintain the disparity that continues to plague our world.
We must do better.
We have to step up and do better, refuse to turn away from the awful truth that has been our hidden shame for so long. We are a racist country. But we don’t have to be. We can change and the first step on that long road is actually acknowledging the truth. Not covering it up, not spinning it, not withholding it to create a plausible narrative, but facing it head on, with humility and the recognition that our country must be held to account before it can heal.
If we do this. If we unify on this. If we refuse to compromise on truth, it will be the beginning of a better world. If we drag all of the tragic lies and covered up truths out into the open, acknowledge them and face them head on, we will be operating in an honest and open manner and a different world. A world where we choose honor, where we chose life, where we choose justice.
Together we can create a better world.
Statement on Daunte Wright and Systemic Racism | Originally published April 12, 2021
Dear Friends of Hallie Q. Brown:
Yesterday, another Black man was killed by law enforcement officers during an encounter over a minor offense. I say another, because we haven’t even gotten halfway through the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, we haven’t arrested the killer of Breonna Taylor, we’re still recovering from the death of Philando Castile. Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than White people and even though we were only 13% of the population, we accounted for 28% of the people killed by police in 2020.
I want to tell you that it’s going to be okay, that justice is coming, that the world has changed and we just need to have faith and hold on, but I can’t. I can’t do this because there is an epidemic in this country, a sickness, an addiction to killing Black people and nothing we have done so far has been able to change that. We’ve marched, we’ve protested, there’s been civil unrest, we’ve brought people across the world together, in unity, under the banner that Black lives matter, and still a Black person is shot and killed because of expired tabs.
There are many good people in law enforcement: people who care about justice, who believe in protecting and serving the community. They get up every day and put their lives at risk in order to protect and serve. I work with and respect these people, but even they know that there is something fundamentally wrong with a system where selling illegal cigarettes, passing a counterfeit $20 bill, or having expired tabs ends in a death sentence handed down by someone charged with enforcing the law, not determining it.
Daunte Wright was 20 years old and he had his whole life ahead of him. I don’t seek to canonize or vilify him, just to raise the point that regardless of anything else in his life, he did not need to die. And whether this was an accident or anger, it is still another Black man killed in the street by someone we are expected to respect, to place our trust in, to believe has our safety and wellbeing in mind. A belief that we have paid dearly for, time after time after time as the trust has been continually betrayed.
There is something profoundly wrong within our system of law enforcement and justice, and at its core is the same age-old issue that sits at the base of all our major crises, systemic racism. The same systemic racism that gave birth to the police as runaway slave catchers, that formed the Klu Klux Klan to protect White people, that developed the homeownership disparity and poverty inequities, that has led to a city where police killed Black people at 22 times the rate of White people (Minneapolis 2013-2020).
We have to end this. We have to change this. We need an intervention.
We need law enforcement to recognize this as a law enforcement problem that they need to fix rather than a community problem we need to address. We need White people to recognize systemic racism as an issue they need to own and address instead of expecting Black people to adjust and endure. We need elected officials and government to stop ratifying racist legislation and start empowering efforts that truly embody a government by the people, for the people and of the people.
And Black and brown people? We need you to stay alive while all this happens.
I am tired of marching, of waiting, or hoping for change. I’m tired of having the same old conversation. I’m tired of having to constantly prove that this really is an issue. But most of all, I’m tired of Black people getting killed by the police and White supremacists.
If Black lives really do matter, if we do believe in justice, then we’re past the time for rhetoric and well into the time for action. Now, right now, is when the world has to change. And it is up to us to make that happen.
Watch: Jonathan Palmer Joins Departments of Health, Agriculture, and Commerce | Black History Month 2021 Discussion
Watch the virtual panel here: The Black Family — Representation, Identity, & Diversity Panel Presentation.
Find a list of suggested reading on this topic here: Black History Month Observance 2021 Resources.
Hallie Q. Brown Statement on the Death of George Floyd | Originally published June 1, 2020
Dear Friends of Hallie Q. Brown:
A week ago, our world changed. Our country witnessed the death of George Floyd. He just an average person; he wasn’t an elected official or a sports star, he wasn’t wealthy or famous, he was simply an ordinary man…a Black man. And yet, it is because he was a regular person, not a celebrity, not a multibillion dollar CEO that his death is so significant that it has led to protests and demonstrations across the country. It is because he was this average man, that his death means so much, because it shines a light on the systemic racism that permeates every facet of our society affecting anyone.
What you’re seeing in America right now is not the “rise of racism”, it is the revelation of racism. We are peeling back the bandage to reveal the gaping wound that has been covered over, but never healed nor been tended to these past 400 years. A wound seeping with the gangrene of white supremacy, infecting any healthy part of our community it comes in contact with, eroding the fabric of our society. It has pushed us towards this cataclysmic confrontation that has finally erupted, and which threatens to decimate our country as no war before has—and make no mistake, we are at war. We’re at war with white supremacy and cultivated hate; we’re at war with the soft bigotry of complacency and excuses; we’re at war with racism in its many forms as the world stands witness…and no one can afford to stand on the sidelines.
It is perhaps fitting that today marks the 99th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, when white supremacists used the cover of a false accusation to take license to maraud through the streets of the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma, more commonly known as Black Wall Street. It was the first time bombs were dropped on American soil as the Klu Klux Klan decimated the businesses and houses, leaving 10,000 people homeless and nearly 200 businesses destroyed along with the only hospital in the district. Many of those residents left Tulsa for other parts of the country including here to Saint Paul and into Hallie Q. Brown. Consider that for a moment, families fleeing the destruction of Black Wall Street found safety, security and support in the halls of Hallie Q.
That is our purpose. For 91 years, Hallie Q. Brown has served as the Lighthouse of the Community, guiding those in need to the resources, programs and services we provide to improve the quality of life in our community. As you read this, we are distributing food and emergency supplies out to families, churches and organizations across the Twin Cities metro. We are working with partners and local institutions to serve as a hub for collection and distribution of resources. If you, or someone you know, needs food or emergency supplies, connect with us and we will help you. If you would like to support this effort, connect with us to find out what is most needed, and how to donate or volunteer.
However, our effort does not, cannot, stop there. That edge of anxiety we are all feeling right now, the trepidation around what’s going to happen and will you be safe tonight, that is what much of the African American community feels all the time. That’s the legacy of systemic racism and unchecked white supremacy, and that can no longer be the status quo. It is time for our systems to change, and we are launching out next effort to do this. We will be convening a task force around policy and systems changes that have to happen, and working together with elected officials, community leaders and key stakeholders to address the injustice that is woven into our society and create lasting change.
We welcome you to join us in this effort, to be a part of making a change for all of our community that ensures justice will prevail and that we will not have any more Philando Castiles, Ahmaud Arberys or George Floyds.
It is right, it is just and Lord knows, it is time.
History Is Now: Anti-Racist Uprising | An Initiative in Partnership with Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, Minnesota Historical Society, and Minnesota African Heritage Museum and Gallery
Learn about the initiative here. Created in partnership with with Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, Minnesota Historical Society, and Minnesota African Heritage Museum and Gallery.