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tv   Tulsa Race Massacre National Symposium - Anneliese Bruner...  CSPAN  July 4, 2021 2:00pm-2:41pm EDT

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justice. in one hour and 20 minutes, john tracy, a former park ranger at gettysburg national military park, tells union soldier john rankin's story. he argues that the honesty in rankin's writings revealed how union veterans remembered the war and wanted to shape how others member. -- how others remembered.
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florence mary parish burner. --bruner. today i will speak to you about our new book "the nation must awake." my great grandmother's book was originally titled "events of that also disaster -- the tulsa disaster." i will tell you how that book came to be and how it was entrusted to me by my father and our relationship around the book , around the story itself, and, how i took his charge to bring my great-grandmother's legacy forward and to fulfill a promise i made to him. during the 1993 through 1994 holiday season, i was visiting
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my family in california. my dad, bill bruner jr. was still living in san francisco where i was born. at the time, i had been living in washington dc with my own family for about 10 years. i traveled home each year to see my folks. on that visit, he took me into his room where we could talk privately. my dad was a gregarious guy with an outsized laugh who had a presence that filled the room. this time, though, he was quiet and serious. he pulled a small, red cloth bound book from among his papers and handed it to me. he said that his grandmother on his mother's side wrote it, and, he wanted to see if i could do anything with it. it was titled "events of the tulsa disaster" by mary
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elizabeth jones parrish, my great-grandmother. that was the beginning of the journey that brings me here today. when i got back to d.c. and started on the book, i cannot believe what i was reading. naturally, i had long been aware of the atrocities that racist ideologues in our country committed against its black citizens earlier in our country's history. but, the well organized and ruthlessly exercised violence they unleashed in greenwood over those 48 hours had an intensity and character that was even more sinister than what i had ever read about before. it was clear to me that this was warfare on american soil that reached a fever pitch of brutality coupled with an unprecedented level of ruthless efficiency.
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the savagery of the attack stunned me. i learned how calculated every move was, from parading machine guns through the neighborhood to surrounding the district from all sides, to make escape more difficult for fleeing residents. dispatching airplanes to intimidate, pursue, and slaughter victims from the air. encouraging wards as young as 10 to participate in the editing and killing spree, thereby normalizing killing people in the minds of young children, barely older than my own seven-year-old grandmother, florence mary, who watched the violence from their apartment window. that was one of the most shocking aspects of this whole ordeal for me.
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herself and her daughter. i started to focus on what i had always done at work anyway, writing and editing other folks writing. i started to take writing and editing classes, eventually, a job with a job with the magazine group and getting my first bylines in the mid-90's. i imagined basing a screenplay on my great-grandmothers book. so, i took a classes, even completing a portion of a script. but, i was haunted by the concern that even in the hands of an experienced screenwriter, see significance of my great-grandmother boss -- a
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great-grandmother's work would be lost. my truest purpose here today is not to talk about myself. i simply wanted to get to the part where i have my possession and i'm figuring out what to do about it. my true focus is on exporting two questions, what is the legacy of mary jones parrish? as, as a nation, we continue to grapple with the history and drama of tulsa past and present. what has been the cost to her legacy under contribution to history of her being a woman? in her book "trauma and recovery: the aftermath of violence, from domestic abuse to political terror." feminist psychologist dr. judith
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lewis hermon tells us "the ordinary response to atrocity is to banish them from consciousness. certain violations of the social compact are too terrible to enter allowed. -- two utter --to utter allowed --aloud. this is the meaning of the world unspeakable -- the word unspeakable. atrocities refused to be buried. denial does not work. full wisdom is filled with ghosts -- folk wisdom is filled with ghosts who refused to rest in their graves until their stories are told. remembering and telling the truth about terrible ovens are prerequisites for the restoration of the social border -- terrible events are prerequisites for the restoration of the social border and healing of individual victims.
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" simply put, the restoration of a viable social order after an event like what happened here in tulsa depends upon truth, as does the restoration to wholeness of the individual victim of political terror. to restate, for healing to happen, truth is not optional. in tulsa, with the continuing unfolding of sachsen testimonies, the truth of what happened has to remain central to the discussion of responsibility and the social and personal restoration that judith hermon paulson writes about. it turns out -- that judith hermon talks and writes about. it turns out that truth is trickier than it should be.
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a crucial event in this new book came about. it is now at risk of being rewritten. the truth buried, as tulsa's truth was for far too long, on january 6, i was on twitter. i was monitoring the unrest at the capitol. i was fearful that months of bombast springing from the relentless and false claim that the november 20 20 election had been stolen on behalf of then president tina joe biden, would culminate in real violence. i follow the news intently as the vote certification was happening in the building while the ticking time bomb of an agitated mob gathered outside. grandmother mary spoke spring -- grandmother mary's book sprung to mind.
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"just as this sort of people men swept down on the colored section of tosa reducing -- tulsa reducing years of sacrifice to piles of brick and twisted iron, if something is not done to bring about justice, thereby checking that spirit, just so will they some future day sweep down on the homes and business places of their own race. " at home in d.c. we watched them sweep into the capital drunk with rage and seeking vengeance for imagined wrong, ready to do bodily harm to lawmakers and law enforcement, the embodiment of social order. in a painfully ironic display,
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metropolitan police department officer michael- was beaten with what according to some reports with the blue lives matter flagpole. the officer has since publicly condemned efforts by local elected officials to negate the seriousness of the attack on the u.s. capitol. in this overheated context, extremist lawmakers have begun to shift the narrative of the day from one that, correctly, assigns responsibility for incitement to the former president, to one that casts the rebels at -- as innocent tourists. these bad-faith factors within
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the ranks of government have cynically doubled down on this counter narrative, jockeying for political advantage at the expense of truth. we must be aware that truth is the first casualty of any war on democratic norms. rewriting history is how totalitarian regimes exercise social control and maintain absolute power. to be clear, absolute power within those resumes rest in the hands of relatively few who use dangerous propaganda. this segment of the population will suffer along with everyone else as democracy is suffocated
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by what are essentially primitive urges to enjoy unearned dominance, power, and status. that keeps them alive with those that seek power for the state of power. just as tosa has made starts forward, our entire country must commit itself to confronting the truth to avoid sliding ever further towards an undemocratic future where justice itself becomes a casualty of a conspiracy of lies. i was personally compelled by the events of january 6 and the parallels with what happened in tulsa 100 years ago to write an article for the lily. i doubt my familial relationship to author, mary parrish. which garnered attention. among those who contacted me was renowned historian dr. scott ellsworth who told me that the
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trinity university press was scheduled to republish my great-grandmothers book this may. i wrote to tom payton, trinity press director and shared my article with him and asked about his vision for this most important material. i hope that the integrity of my four mother both -- mother's work would be honored. tom invited me to contribute the afterword essay for the new book "the nation must awake" officially published yesterday, and to represent the author, my intrepid great-grandmother. needless to say, [applause] i was thrilled and i said yes. [laughter] since i began on this journey of participating in republishing my grandma -- my great grandmother
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mary's book, reporters and others have asked why i think a collective amnesia around the massacre presented -- persisted for so long. a silence that is well documented. here again, i offer the words of judith hermon. "in order to us take accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. if secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. if you cannot silence a victim absolutely, he tries to make sure that no one listens. from a 1999 new york times -- times article we read "in addition to the death toll, the tulsa race riot commission hopes to answer a number of other
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questions, many of them grounded in local nor -- more --lore. blacks here have long complained that whites use airplanes to bomb coatings in north tulsa. the commission hopes to find records seeing if any also a residence airplanes in 1921. the newspaper of record by its framing and word choice goes on record casting doubt on the reliability of black witness to the destruction. the offense against the community is deepened by widespread disbelief. the silence is furthered as the emotional toll of speaking out continues. this amnesia we have seen around the tulsa offensive mirrors the
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painfully common shame in dealing with victims of abuse. how it plays out in domestic violence, where victims aren't silenced by fear of recurrence of what has already happened -- are silenced by fear of recurrence what is already happened or other retribution. unsurprisingly, the perpetrator may, in fact, feel integrated by his power to carry out abuse without accountability, reveling in his impunity and feeling no clear sense of internal shame or regret. simply because he can, the perpetrator loads the least powerful player in the equation with blame. if facade of normalcy is essential to a status quo in which the abuser wheels of the
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most power -- wheeled -- wields the most power. an honest reckoning would validate the victims experience. the game courses them and to accept -- coerces them -- the victims are left to cope with complex trauma as best they can without support or understanding. they may even be saddled with guilt or shame for what someone else did. the victim is scapegoated for their own suffering. today, we have a growing understanding just how corrosive it is to allow abuse to happen and remain shrouded in darkness. unfortunately, however, the dark babies the only space that survivors can access -- the dary
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space that survivors can access. any emotional space for survivors to talk about the massacre was limited. although the impetus for survivors to talk about it could have been powerful, it was also one for which there were internal mechanisms of oppression at work. this, surely, produced a conundrum that resounds through the years. how to talk about this the that happened, and remain emotionally safe. the mechanisms of political talent -- terror had done their job consigning victims to a silence that choked and haunted them as the truth phot to come out. as we know, political temer is intended -- political terror is
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intended to invade and inhabit the psyche of victims. it teaches them they are not safe. that they must stay in line or else the unthinkable will happen, or happen again. that their fate lies in the hands of people who hate them, add, that they must endure this condition and its impacts -- and, that they must endure this condition and its impacts without recourse. i was 20 years old when my grandmother died. i never hurt her or my father speak about the massacre she survived as a girl -- i never heard her or my father speak about the massacre she survived as a girl, even when he gave me the book when i was 34 years old. i, naively, took my cue from him, not understanding that he probably needed permission to talk about what he knew from what his mother or grandmother may have told him. no reckoning was on the horizon.
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extrapolating, i can well imagine that people grew weary of the burden of remembrance without the possibility of restoration. yet, too often, when secrecy prevails, the story of the robotic -- the dramatic surface is not as a narrative but as a symptom. i can see some of those symptoms in my own family. affirmation that remembering and telling the truth are requisite to healing trauma. this applies both individually and societally, although, the cost to a society's sense of itself and the mythologies -- methodologies can be great. but these methodologies can be deadly.
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what happened in tulsa did not happen in a vacuum. people were restless for freedom and self-determination that reconstruction had promised with its educational and political opportunities. reconstruction was the federal government's attempt to bring a people up from enslavement. until it was thwarted by progressive ideologues, it had considerable test success. -- considerable success. scores of african americans became educated in that time and embraced full civic participation. churches and organizations help organize communities and provided spaces where african-americans build wealth and organize constituencies that empowered them to participate in the broader society. continuing that tradition and
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gaining in confidence from african-american participation in the world war ii effort, black folks in greenwood were the architects of a self-sufficient and proud community and were living the american dream of commencement reward -- commence your best commence your -- of reward for hard work. in took that from them in a moment of white -- envy took that from them in a moment of lightweight -- white rage. absent that destructive sentiment, how much farther along could our country be in the journey towards an environment that values the service and individual could give to the world as must -- as much as it does a simplistic self-serving racial lease those?
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one step forward for black america has consistently been met with\as -- with\-- back lash. we can see that the challenge is to foster a collective humanity through truth telling that makes an event like tulsa less likely as opposed to continuing to overload african-americans with the best what does responsibility of assuaging other americans reflexive anxiety about black people, woven into so many aspects about american life that even black people wanted the people of color must be filled -- vigilant about accepting fare of black people.
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anxiety -- fear of black people. anxiety, fear, and suspicion shape negative tropes and stereotypes that become part of the background of assumptions. it is morally incumbent upon all of us to resist these cultivated thought pathways and reject dehumanizing stereotypes that make violence against groups more likely. this takes energy and commitment. but, it is doable and necessary. to prevent a future that tulsa warns us of. so, with the historical and emotional distance provided by our current renters point, nash our current vantage point, we have -- our current vantage point, we have the framework to dive in to why people do not talk about them as good or -- about the massacre and what we
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are tasked to do about it. for the first time, the assembled voices of the survivors who appear in her book tell their own stories down through history to the broadest possible audience. great-grandmother mary was the reporter and scribe whose work made possible much of the scholarship that has been done about it this historical event and the time in which it is set. the organized violence and destruction that disrupted black wall street arose from converging factors. but, one of the underlying themes was to erase a self-sufficient and well-organized african-american community that stood in direct contrast to any stereotype of black incompetence and soft. -- loss --sloth.
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here was a town of industrious black citizens who did all of the right things but still had all that work for snatched away. no one was supposed to talk about it. today we see things differently. it is our job to create new frameworks accordingly. heretofore, mary parrish's persona has endured the same erasure as the event itself, no doubt, because of the systematic suppression of the toefl story, but also, that the tosa -- the tall slab -- the tulsa story, but also because of her gender. it is common for works by unknown or less known people to be folded into the efforts of those who have a ticker platform. there was no -- a bigger platform. there was no mechanism for recognizing and celebrating her. or perhaps, there was no will l.
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her name fell into obscurity. other names emerged and were rightfully celebrated for their work on behalf of tulsa's legacy. her work as a testimony to her capacity to speak for herself, yet, this well spoken woman remained in the background. the people who relied on her work, i don't know. i do believe that because she was a woman with a daughter at her only first-degree descendant, the, disruptions that happened in women's lives and to take them off their own track, marriage, children, extended family responsibilities, and more, upended the preservation and propagation of her legacy. beyond these factors, had the capture and dissemination of the story been valued from the outset, mary parrish would have been more widely known figure.
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thankfully, we see things differently today. there is more to the story of the little red book and bringing her name back to prominence. in 2011, my daughter's law school classmate invited us to the home of a prominent washington, d.c. activist and politico who was hosting a fundraiser for the yet to be built national museum of african-american history and culture. we gave a founding member contribution and met john franklin, who spoke on behalf of the new museum. i approached him, where his father, the venerable john hope franklin, was from tulsa. i told my i great-grandmother also survived the massacre and had written "the events of the tulsa disaster." when my father passed away, and the music was closer to opening,
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i consider donating the book to the museum. but, a textile preservationist i met pulled my coattails. that museum contributions often end up in storage. without any way to ensure her work would be featured, i held onto the book. i do not wish to participate in the continuing erasure of my own for mother. so, when tom payton, the director of trinity university press invited me to be part of the new book they were preparing to republish, i accepted the invitation and committed to elevating the life and legacy of mary barra --parrish. a woman alone, though, some records indicate she was with her husband in tulsa, though her own account all but explicitly establishes her as a single mother.
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she managed to get this book done. she worked as a teacher in the local branch of the ymca in greenwood, teaching secretarial sciences, and ran her own school teaching those same skills. it was a time when many exceptional women, and certainly black women, took jobs as secretaries to gain entry into the workforce and help support their families and played an increasing role in the economy and society. when women would have been eager to learn these skills, so, mary parrish would have had strong demand for her business. by her own account, she had never worked for white people, although, many black women worked as domestics in white helmets. this was likely -- white homes. this was likely the mechanism by which black women saw the limited possessions of
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greenwood's conflagration. the dissidents of seeing you or your neighbor's property in the homes of the community that destroyed your own without accountability must have been brushing. -- must have been crushing. but, mary parrish's life was not solely defined by the thing that the world knows as the tosa race massacre. -- the tulsa race massacre. she was born in yazoo city, mississippi. she was living in oklahoma the year that her daughter, my grandmother, was born. mary jones and simon parrish were married in 1912. by the late teens, the family was living in rochester new york. i would like to discover why they relocated there. it could have been for some perceived opportunity or for restlessness and a hunt for something different.
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in 1918, mary parrish traveled to tulsa to visit her brother. she was impressed by the community she found here. there was a vitality in a spirit of cooperation that appealed to her. she could envision making a living and was assumed to return after that initial visit. she secured a job at the bunton branch of the ymca and opened her own school to facilitate women who want to do up -- wanted to learn the secretarial arts. she was teaching the night of the massacre. her students had left for the evening and she and her daughter were passing the time until bedtime. but, there would be no rest that night. little florence mary stood in the window amusing herself as her mother read, gazing out into the night, florence said "mother, look at the course one of people." the young mother took no heed,
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to -- continuing to read her book to relax after dismissing her students at about 9:00. she realized the urgency of her daughters called when the little girl and i said "mother, i see men with guns. " white men with guns invaded the area, some of whom, according to historian scott ellsworth, did try by shootings of black residents who are unfortunate enough to be on the street at the time and shot into black homes as well. mary parrish was reluctant to leave, in a quandary about the safest course of action, but finally persuaded to flee. with the release of mary parish's book, the public can learn this important history and has a chance to apply the measures of objective reality to what some people have suppressed or denied through the years.
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we value written history in our society. when like to think of ourselves as objective and rational. this may have influenced the view of oral testimony as uncorroborated. what great-grandmother marries and does is to cooperate -- cooperate --coabberate what witnesses have said all along. this is a historical event recounted with precision in real-time. we may well ask ourselves why this is important now. last week's congressional testimony, given my 107-year-old -- by 107-year-old viola fletcher, offered a partial answer. mother fletcher recounted that
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awful night and subsequent day. her calm tone and demeanor belying the harbor she witnessed -- the horror she witnessed as a seven-year-old. she asked for justice from her country and for full acknowledgment of the atrocities. she described the hardship she endured in the ensuing years, and through her life. a course she feels not have been her lot had it not been for the massacre. she asked for reparations. mother fletcher told the truth. it was captured in the congressional record for all of history. her oral presentation was heard by the country, and her voice was silenced no more. she spoke up and smoke out in
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her own voice and made her case as the table of power. everything she described seeing, everything she described seeing, aligned with what mary parrish's book reports as fact. no one can turn a blind eye to mother fletcher's plight as she seeks to live in dignity and security. no one can hide behind technicalities. the restoration required for her healing should be a natural truth. mother fletcher advocated for herself and told the truth with her own voice. mary parrish recorded the truth with her notebook and typewriter. the truth is there for all to behold. we know with certainty that capturing and preserving the truth are central to ensuring
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restorative justice. but, the enemies of true justice are working overtime to mute or distort the truth. from the halls of congress into state legislatures, down to school districts in classrooms, they are passing legislation and codifying practice to make a sanitized version of american history all that is available to generations of learners. they are shaping policy that will make it harder to know the complex truth that as full citizens we are all obligated to grapple with. but, truth is not optional in a functioning democracy. it is a fundamental element. the nation must await to the dangers of remaining passive in the face of the onslaught against truth. we have to work diligently to keep truth at the forefront of our debates about the solutions
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we need to find for some of our country's long-standing ills. the nation must await to the threat of violence from to mastic terrorists who have demonstrated that they are willing to use violence to further their progressive agenda. finally, we must awake to the complicity of our own silence and passivity in the face of threats to others who may not apply to us. history will judge our time much as we look back and dissect and analyze the tulsa of 1921. i hope we will withstand scrutiny. thank you. [applause] on may 31, 1921, tensions over the arrest of a young black man for his apparent interactions with the young white woman led to white men marching on the greenwood district in tulsa. over the next day, the
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neighborhood known as black wall street was burned. hundreds of african americans were killed. next, historian scott ellsworth, author of "the groundbreaking, and american city edit search for justice close quote -- justice" as part of a national symposium by the john hope franklin center for reconciliation. scott: thank you. it is good to be with you today. it is great to be home in tulsa. i think everyone here probably has some sense of the scope of the tulsa race massacre. but, i know this is being filmed. there may be others who watch it you are not familiar. so, just to remind everyone of what gigantic event this was, the numbers only sort of do it justice. you had more than 1000 african-american


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