Over 100 years ago there was a thriving Black community in the heart of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Black-owned businesses flourished in Greenwood, known as a community of freedom, according to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. 

Freed and enslaved Black people had settled in Oklahoma, and after emancipation, they established all-Black towns. One of those towns was Greenwood, also dubbed “Black Wall Street” due to the hundreds of Black businesses it had. 

But Greenwood suffered a tragic end in 1921 when the Tulsa race massacre happened. Ten thousand white residents rushed Greenwood and wreaked havoc over a two-day period. Businesses were burned to the ground, families were separated, and hundreds were killed in the deadliest race-based incident in American history, according to the museum. 

Now, residents of Montclair will have the opportunity to learn the history of Greenwood and the importance of Black businesses thanks to Glenfield parents Dee Thompson and Colleen Dougherty. 

Thompson and Dougherty are inviting the community to join them for “Greenwood at Glenfield” on Friday, March 24, at 6 p.m. in the Glenfield School auditorium. 

Last year, while her child was attending Hillside Elementary, Thompson held a “My Money Matters” lesson to teach the elementary students about Tulsa during their Black Lives Matter Week of Action. 

She briefly touched on the background of the race riot but decided to “scale back” due to the students being so young. Now that the event will be an after-school
community event, they intend to do a deep dive into the history while also highlighting local Black-owned businesses.

Beyond the Boogie, a dance studio on Valley Road, will be opening up the event with a dance to commemorate Black history. 

Dr. Saundra Collins, the associate director of the African American studies program at Montclair State University, will be presenting the history of the town and the massacre that brought on its demise. 

The Montclair school district family liaison and literary specialist, Renee Graham, will be performing a theatrical monologue. 

Alongside these presentations, multiple local Black-owned businesses will line the halls of Glenfield, and a complimentary dinner will be served. 

Staying true to Glenfield’s mission of being a visual and performing arts school, the organizers enlisted students to create artwork that will enhance the experience so that participants feel they are immersed in Greenwood. 

Both Thompson and Dougherty hope that this event will be a stepping stone to a larger conversation that can continue at home.

“We feel that this is something that, once the idea is out there, it'll be up to the parents to really dive into things deeper,” Thompson said. 

“Because there's so much of what happened in Tulsa that we won't be able to get to every single thing on this evening. So we want to get the basics out there in a respectful way.”
The violence that occurred during the two days of the massacre is something that many can’t fathom. Blood trickled down the streets from bodies that were never found while smoke continuously poured from homes and businesses that were set on fire. 

When doing their research for the event, Thompson and Dougherty wanted to create an accurate depiction while also being conscious of their audience. While scrolling through the archives of the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum, Thompson recalls having to get up from the computer screen due to the nature of the photos. 

Working with the historical society, the organizers chose photos to showcase that aren’t as graphic. 

“We have made it a point to have the history there, and to understand what the violence is, or the things that have happened, but not so much that they can actually see the violence,” Thompson said. 

However, the two women want to make it known that they are not only commemorating Greenwood in its demise, but also when it was at its height of economic prosperity. 

While putting together the event, the women found no shortage of vendors, as Black business owners from Montclair and neighboring towns offered their services. 

“We've had experiences such as we would reach out to someone to ask if they would participate, and then they tell a colleague, and then their colleague reaches out to us, asking if they could participate,” Thompson said.

“What we're doing is we're sort of creating parallels to the affluence of this business district,” Dougherty said. “And then we look at our own community and we see all of these amazing, Black-owned businesses.”

attachment-Greenwood at Glenfield Flyer