SERMON TITLE: “Acts of the Spirit: Witness of the Spirit”
SERMON TEXT: Acts 2:22-33
PREACHER: Rev. Kim James
OCCASION: May 30, 2021 (Heritage/Memorial Day) at First UMC
Over the past several days, I’ve been learning about the Tulsa Race Massacre that happened one hundred years ago this week. Do you know about this? Have you just now been learning about this, ike me? On May 31 and June 1, 1921, white rioters looted and burned the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma. “Some historians say as many as 300 Black people were killed and another 10,000 were left homeless.”1 What previously had been a thriving and affluent black neighborhood never recovered from the devastation.
Obviously, there have been many questions about why and how such a thing could have ever happened. But, after an official Race Riot Commission was organized in 2001 and historical resources were examined, “the Race Riot Commission determined a number of details to be undeniable. ‘These are not myths, not rumors, not speculations, not questioned,’” they said. “‘They are the historical record.’”2 According to the Tulsa Historical Society, a black man, a white woman, “and an unknown gunman were the sparks that ignited a long smoldering fire. Jim Crow [laws], jealousy, white supremacy, and land lust all played roles in leading up to the destruction and loss of life.”2
By a miracle of longevity, there are actually some people still alive who survived that destruction of their community. On May 19, three such witnesses testified before a subcommittee of the United States Congress. One of them was Viola Fletcher, age 107. Viola was seven years old in 1921, and she told those lawmakers in Washington, D.C., what she experienced. “‘I will never forget the violence of the white mob when we left our home,’” she said. “‘I still see Black men being shot, Black bodies lying in the street. I still smell smoke and see fire. I still see Black businesses being burned. I still hear airplanes flying overhead. I hear the screams’ . . . ‘Our country may forget this history,’ she said, ‘but I cannot.’”1