May 25, 2021




By Leslie Fields-Cruz


1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, U.S. Library of Congress/ Public Domain

Commemorating What Some Would Have Us Forget

For most of the past 100 years, the history of what happened on May 31-June 1, 1921 in Tulsa, Okla., has remained relatively unknown outside the region where it occurred. All that will change this year, thanks to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, which over the next two months is bringing together an assortment of documentary filmmakers, historians, scholars, journalists, artists, faith leaders, and others for an outstanding program of virtual and in-person commemorative events. The program kicked off this past weekend and continues through the end of June. 

Among those presenting during the centennial is BPMplus filmmaker Bayeté Ross Smith, who on Thurs., June 3 will discuss his upcoming VR exhibition: Red Summers: Domestic Terrorism, 1917-1921, as part of the program’s National Day of Learning. Bayeté’s presentation is at 11 a.m. CT/noon ET. Admission to this virtual event is free. Go here to register. He will also discuss the project this Wed., May 26, at 11:30 p.m. CT., on BPM's Technically Brilliant Show.

Bayete Ross Smith-headshot-color

Bayeté Ross Smith

Also featured on the National Day of Learning program is one of the people Bayeté interviewed for his project: editor and writer Anneliese M. Bruner. Her great-grandmother, Mary Jones Parrish, wrote a book about what she and others witnessed during the two-day massacre and its aftermath. Parrish’s book was recently re-released under the title The Nation Must Awake! by Trinity University Press. Public radio listeners can catch the podcast stream of Anneliese discussing her great-grandmother’s book on NPR’s Morning Edition

Can’t make it to Tulsa and aren’t up for another virtual symposium? Then check out Ayana Baraka’s Greenwood Avenue VR series anytime on YouTube. Baraka was a BPM 360 Incubator+ Fellow in 2019. Her project offers a virtual close encounter with what life was like on Black Wall Street before, during and after the 1921 massacre. 

These are just a few of the commemorative programs airing, streaming and happening over the Memorial Day weekend. Whether you plan to kick it beside a pool, host your first barbecue since 2019, or screen a film in an actual movie theater, I hope you’ll make time to learn more about this little known chapter in American history. As media makers, our charge is to ensure that our forbearers’ challenges, triumphs and legacies are never forgotten. 

Finally, if you or anyone you know is interested in learning how to connect with NOVA PBS to tell science stories, please register to attend our upcoming workshop on June 3 at 1 p.m. ET. Participation in the virtual event is free and all are invited to bring their questions and story ideas. BPM filmmaker Byron Hurt will be among the speakers. He’ll discuss a new project he is pursuing with NOVA.

Have a good week!


Byron Hurt

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