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"Make Black Wall Street great again": Tulsa commemorates Juneteenth with rally

Thousands celebrated Juneteenth in Tulsa's historic Greenwood District on Friday. Festivities and demonstrations occurred throughout the day, and and Reverend Al Sharpton gave the keynote address, CBS Tulsa affiliate KOTV reports

"It's going to take more than a lot of threats and backfighting and a crooked criminal justice system to stop us," Sharpton said Friday night. "They put our forefathers on blocks and sold us like a bar of soap, and we never stopped fighting. They took our names to where we don't know our names — we are named after those who owned our forefathers. But even nameless, we never stopped fighting."  

The Tulsa World reported that organizers said Sharpton had received death threats for coming to the city. Tiffany Crutcher, one of the organizers of this year's event, told the Tulsa World that Sharpton was "very concerned."

"He really doesn't want to come out of his trailer. His phone has been inundated with threatening calls," Crutcher said. "But we are not going to let hate and threats, bigotry and racism deter us."

The event was held on the eve of President Trump's planned rally in the city. Sharpton addressed Mr. Trump's presence, telling the crowd, "When I hear people walking around and talking about Make America Great Again, give me the date America was great for everybody?... We are the ones, you that are marching in Selma, you that are marching all over America, you are the ones who are making America great for the first time." 

The sentiment was shared by one demonstrator who walked through the festivities saying "you ain't making America great again until you make Black Wall Street great again," according to KOTV. In 1921, the prosperous Greenwood area was known as "Black Wall Street" until white Tulsans attacked their neighbors in one of the worst race massacres in American history. More than 300 people were killed and the neighborhood was burned to the ground.

Local volunteer Laura Bellis told KOTV that "it felt really important for the community to come together and be able to put on something that people can really commemorate, celebrate and do so again in as safe a way as possible to create a positive space for our city, especially right now."  

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump's Tulsa rally is his first since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Trump's rally had initially been scheduled for Friday, but was later pushed to Saturday. Mr. Trump tweeted the date was changed "out of respect for this Holiday, and in observance of this important occasion and all that it represents." 

Ahead of Mr. Trump's visit, Mayor G.T. Bynum declared a civil emergency, establishing a 10 p.m. curfew. But Mr. Trump tweeted Friday afternoon that there would be no curfew.

Juneteenth commemorates the day the Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, the last outpost in the U.S. where people were enslaved, and freed the people kept as slaves. Texas had kept approximately 250,000 black people enslaved for two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation became law in 1863.

Since 1866, parades and barbecues have been a staple of black communities from Houston and San Antonio to Chicago and Little Rock. 

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