News from the Plains: All this RED can make you BLUE
The Souls On, In, and Of The Street
by Barry Friedman
Brady Street is named after Tate Brady, one of Tulsa's early businessmen. Over the years Brady has become controversial for his association with the Ku Klux Klan, and some people allege that he helped organize the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot.You had me at "association with the Ku Klux Klan."
For years, few in Tulsa thought much of Brady Street or the district, north of downtown, which bears his name. With the exception of the Brady Theatre and Cain's Ballroom, this was an area of abandoned buildings, seedy, eclectic bars, and a Spaghetti Warehouse. But, recently, a new minor league ballpark, Oneok Field, arrived; condos and clubs were built; the Woody Guthrie Center opened; a local television station relocated here; AHHA! Hardesty Arts Center moved its operations; The Oklahoma Museum of Music and Popular Culture (OK Pop) will be coming to the area; and the crown jewel of all, Guthrie Green, a marvelously conceived community space, sits right dab in the middle of it all, and there are now renewed questions about the area's identity and history--namely, that name: Brady. Sparked by a marvelous story written in by Lee Roy Chapman in This Land Press (full disclosure: my girlfriend works there) many are wondering whether they should buy barbecue sandwiches from food trucks parked on either side of the Green or enjoy Red Dirt musicians covering The Band's "The Weight" on glorious Sunday afternoons in an area named for this man, Tate Brady, who was at least tangentially associated with and apologized for the KKK.
The Tulsa Race Riot is the largest boil in the city's history--perhaps in America's--so it's tough to enjoy the splendor of the place without also thinking of white men in hoods burning black businesses to the ground in an area known as Black Wall Street.
Arguing against a name change are some of the merchants in the area and Tulsa's Mayor Dewey Bartlett, who said, “We use history as a teaching device, that is a very good use. We ... take advantage of his and our past and look for how not to do things and, hopefully, how to do things.”
Mayor, Strunk and White, line one.
More importantly, not good enough.
We remember the lessons of the Holocaust without buying Sno-Cones in a park named after Mengele. In Tulsa, in fact, they take names off buildings for much less.
There are those, as well, who argue this is the wrong fight, for it was the Greenwood District where the race riots and murders took place, or that it was a long time ago and it's time to move on, or even that by keeping the Tate name in an area so diverse and open and welcoming, it's a perfect way to stick it to the former Klansman.
Yes, by all means, let's anger the spirit of the dead white supremacist by allowing interracial dancing on the in front of the band. That'll show him.
Thing is, however Brady’s supporters want to minimize his Klan association, how much area residents, mostly white, have moved on, Tate Brady is the wrong name at the wrong time for Tulsa’s newest shining community--the most vibrant in the state--especially if the reasons for not changing it are mostly covered in shopworn cliches about political correctness gone amok and/or because one knows an African American who's not offended.
It would never be named that today.
So how about we change it because Tulsans, as well as those visiting, need to see that 'moving on' often means lancing those boils (even if they grew in previous generations) from the communal derma and not covering them up with posturing and alacrity. We change it because some shopkeeper's soul or his great granddaughter will rest easier. We change it because it's a way of apologizing. We change it because there are others in Tulsa's history more deserving of the honor, like Otis Clark.
Who’s Otis Clark?
First, let's take a walk.
Towards Greenwood, literally on the other side of the tracks, you'll see small plaques on buildings and built into sidewalks, commemorating a dry cleaner who lost his business that last weekend in May, 1921; a barber who lost his life; a family who disappeared; a community erased.
In Judaism, there’s a saying that every Jewish baby born since 1945 spits on Hitler’s grave.
Otis Clark, 109, died last year—the last survivor of Tulsa’s Race Riot.