Three new documentary projects are planned about the Tulsa Race Massacre – and two of them will be directed by African American women

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dream hampton [Courtesy photo]

At least three high-profile documentary projects are planned about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, and two of them are slated to be directed by African American women.

As I reported on my BAM’s Blog, the Tulsa Race Massacre was one of the worst episodes of racial violence in U.S. history. Between May 31 and June 1, 1921, mobs of white residents attacked, set aflame and ultimately destroyed the Greenwood District, which was at that time one of the wealthiest black communities in the United States, earning it the name “Black Wall Street.”

It is now believed that more than 300 African Americans were killed, and thousands were displaced. The deadly tragedy was covered up for decades and omitted from history books even in Oklahoma. Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum has opened an investigation to locate the unknown sites of the mass graves and provide a level of closure and justice for a broken community.

As the event’s 2021 centennial approaches, multiple film and television projects are telling the story, which is still timely in the midst of national protests about racial injustice following the May 25 death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd while in police custody. The opening scenes of HBO’s 2019 acclaimed limited series “Watchmen” depicted the Tulsa Race Massacre, introducing many people to the horrific event for the first time.

Cineflix Productions has attached award-winning filmmaker and writer dream hampton as executive producer and director of a new limited documentary series on the historic tragedy.

With the working title “Black Wall Street,” the project will weave together past and present to recount the Tulsa Race Massacre, according to a news release.

hampton’s recent works include Lifetime’s Emmy-nominated “Surviving R. Kelly,” which broke ratings records and had wide and far-reaching impact; the Frameline feature documentary “Treasure”; HBO feature documentary “It’s A Hard Truth Ain’t It”; and the BET docuseries “Finding Justice.” In 2019, hampton was named one of Time’s 100 most influential people in the world.

“Black people from Tulsa have refused to let the Greenwood District Massacre be erased from history. I’m so inspired by their persistence to lift up the stories of what North Tulsa was before the massacre. They are proud that their ancestors, just a generation out of slavery, purchased land and created businesses that personified Black excellence. As the centennial approaches they are still searching for a mass grave they believe contains the bodies of the victims of the Black Wall Street Massacre, and they are still demanding reparations. I’m inspired to learn this history from them, and to tell their ongoing story,” said hampton in a statement.

SpringHill Entertainment, the production company founded by LeBron James and Maverick Carter, also will produce a documentary about Tulsa’s Black Wall Street, which was destroyed in the Tulsa Race Massacre.

[feedburner name="name"]Salima Koroma, left, and Jaeki Cho made the 2016 documentary “Bad Rap.” [Courtesy photo]

Salima Koroma – who directed the 2016 documentary “Bad Rap,” about Asian American rappers, including Awkwafina – will direct and executive produce SpringHill Entertainment’s Black Wall Street project,[/feedburner]
according to Deadline.

“The Tulsa Race Massacre is not just a black story but American history. The fabric of this country is soaked in racism and today 99 years later, we’re still fighting for change,” Koroma wrote on Twitter about the project.

According to SpringHill Entertainment’s Twitter account, Koroma pitched the idea for her Black Wall Street documentary to the production company in April.

“We knew we had to empower her to tell that story,” the company wrote on Twitter.

And Oklahoma Hall of Famer and former Oklahoma City Thunder basketball superstar Russell Westbrook plans to executive produce a television series about the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Westbrook has partnered with Blackfin, the unscripted TV producer behind Investigation Discovery’s “I Am Homicide” and History Channel’s “Brothers in Arms,” on a documentary series titled “Terror in Tulsa: The Rise and Fall of Black Wall Street.”

Westbrook posted a photo and statement about the project on Twitter, writing that he first learned of the destruction of Black Wall Street during his 11 seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder, which exposed him to “the rich and sordid history of the state.”

“When I learned about the heartbreaking events that happened in Tulsa nearly 100 years ago, I knew this was a story I wanted to tell. It’s upsetting that the atrocities that transpired then are still so relevant today. It’s important we uncover the buried stories of African Americans in this country. We must amplify them now more than ever if we want to create change moving forward,” Westbrook said in his statement.

That docuseries will be directed and produced by three-time Primetime Emmy Award winner Stanley Nelson (“Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool”). Besides the “Terror in Tulsa” project for Blackfin and Westbrook, Nelson is also set to direct the feature documentary “Attica,” about the 1971 prison rebellion in upstate New York, for Showtime, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

All of these projects are going to tell an important story that has been too often covered up, omitted and overlooked. But we need more of this: more black stories, more black creatives – especially women – and more black voices. We shouldn’t need a centennial of a great American tragedy to get three big-time film/TV projects that feature black voices telling black stories.

Stories have power. Movies have power. Television has power. Hopefully, we will continue to see projects that amplify the voices of people of color, and especially women of color.


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