A class devoted to these and many other rich chapters of Oklahoma Black’s history starts on Feb. 4. Designed to provide the backstories that the state’s public school classrooms lack, “Black History Saturdays” are available to Tulsa schoolkids – and their families – with a particular preference for students descended from survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
The classes are provided free of charge and will be held at The EduRec Youth and Family Fun Center, 5424 N Madison Ave., in North Tulsa on the first Saturday of every month. They will run for nine months, until Nov. 4. The classes will take place over five hours, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The classes will be divided into age groups from pre-K to early adults. There are 120 spots available. Prospective students can SIGN UP HERE. An admissions committee will review the applications and determine which children are admitted.
Kristi Williams, chair of the Greater Tulsa Area African American Affairs Commission and a descendant of entrepreneurs who survived the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, created the classes.
Inspired by a dream
In an interview with The Oklahoma Eagle, Williams explained her inspiration for the classes.
“For years I have had a dream of opening a school that focused on educating students in Black history,” said Williams, whose great aunt Janie Edward was inside the famed Dreamland Theatre when the Race Massacre started. “This is a somewhat scaled-down version of that dream. It’s a way to ground students in the absorbing stories that Blacks have forged in Oklahoma over decades. And with a solid grounding in the past, they will be better able to build a strong future.”
Williams chose some of Tulsa’s Black A-list educators to form the faculty that include Dr. Alicia Odewale, an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Tulsa; Endya Carr, director of onboarding and district partnerships for Teach For America; Michael Carter, who formerly served as principal at Greenwood Leadership Academy in Tulsa; Tulsa District 1 City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper, and Greg Robinson II, founder and senior consultant of Standpipe Hill Strategies, LLC. They are digging deep into their extensive knowledge and expertise to design, development, and implement curriculum for Tulsa’s “Black History Saturdays” that will profoundly impact the youth and community of Oklahoma, as well as a broad audience beyond its borders.
The topics will include entrepreneurship, archaeology, family history research and oral storytelling’s significance.
The vision Williams has harbored for years of offering Black history classes in Tulsa was accelerated after Oklahoma GOP lawmakers pushed through the controversial House Bill 1775 in 2021. The oppressive anti-critical race theory statute forbids Oklahoma public school teachers from telling students that one race is superior to another or that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”
“After that statute was passed, I was motivated to provide some Black history that I knew students would not get in public school classrooms,” Williams told the Eagle.
The statutes closely resemble similar measures passed by conservative, GOP-controlled legislatures in Texas, Florida and other states.
A retake of Black history nationwide
“Black History Saturdays” are aligned with a movement of educators nationwide to correct some of the shortcomings of the curriculum of Black history offerings. Last year, National Geographic created “2892 Miles to Go,” a social justice education program. The website describes the program as “centered on amplifying local community stories about justice, race, and equity that are often left out of common narratives of human history.”
The description continues, “Our hope is to become the antidote to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s eloquent definition of “The Danger of a Single Story” by holding space for and elevating the stories of many. We believe that the land we live on never forgot these stories, and we want to remember – and reclaim – them together.”
The “Black History Saturdays” curriculum draws from the “2992 Miles to Go” program.
In 2021, the Advanced Placement (AP) program rolled out an African American studies course. It’s a college-level course dedicated to learning about and researching the African Diaspora. It was crafted to elevate African American history in high schools across the U.S. The study began in the current 2022–2023 school year in 64 selected U.S. schools. Starting in the 2023–2024 school year, the pilot course will expand to approximately 200 schools. The system is expected to launch worldwide starting in 2024.
BLACK HISTORY SATURDAYS