Truly some of the best football stories are the ones that have nothing to do with X's and O's. This one is about how football, racism, history and passion can all collide.
In an incredible piece by the Tulsa World, Coach Aaron Fletcher talks about the passion and journey that brought him into a deep understanding of one of the darkest occurrences in American history, the Tulsa Race Massacre.
The piece is jaw dropping, literally. Coach Fletcher explains how upon becoming a member of the coaching staff at Tulsa, he found himself fascinated by the history of his new town. Someone shared with him the story of what happened to "Black Wall Street" on Greenwood Ave in Tulsa, then later at a conference one of his players, Akayleb Evans, spoke about being more than just an athlete. For Fletcher this was the spark for what ended up being a huge idea, a game honoring the Legacy of Black Wall Street.
For those that do not know, the Tulsa Race Massacre occurred in the summer of 1921 and lasted for two days. In short, white Tulsa residents were given weapons by city officials and gathered in mobs to attack Black residents and businesses surrounding Greenwood Ave, "Black Wall Street". There was even an airstrike that dropped firebombs and discharged rifles. 800 people sought medical treatment for injuries, as many as 300 people died and thousands of Black residents were held in a facility for several days. At the time of the Massacre, Black Wall Street was a booming, successful area that provided the Black community with services and businesses that they were unable to access in the white community. The attack successfully burnt it to the ground.
The Massacre is largely left out of history books and goes unmentioned. Which is why Fletcher had never heard of it until he moved to Tulsa.
The "Legacy of Black Wall Street" game will be all encompassing and include community outreach. Fletcher has had immense support from Tulsa Athletic Department staff members and head coach Philip Montgomery. The first edition of this game will be played this weekend, October 30th against East Carolina.
Fletcher told Tulsa World the details of the game, "We will have video tributes, videos and pictures of our teams going to visit the Black Wall Street area. We’ll have videos from people in the Black and Brown community, business owners, talking about the legacy of Black Wall Street. They’ll talk about how they want to help the university, how people from the university reached out and came down to talk to them. We’ll have prominent alums talk about their experiences..."
The timeliness of this honorary game is unbelievable. America has been plagued with racism and the American people have been tasked with figuring out how to remedy some deeply institutional problems. Many feel that as a national we have come so far, yet we still have a long way to go. The Tulsa Race Massacre is truly a horrible mark on our nation's past and reminder of the work left to do.
Coaches have the power to make instrumental differences at their schools, on their teams and in their communities.
Thank you Tulsa World for bringing this incredible story to light (Read it here).
Thank you Coach Fletcher for undertaking this project and taking time to learn about the community.
This is just simply incredible.