The history of the Greenwood Cultural Center traces back to the 1921 racial war – the most devastating urban disaster since the Civil War. The historic boulevard, Greenwood Avenue, was destroyed by fire, 35 square blocks and 1447 residents and businesses were demolished, 300 citizens died, and more than 10,000 were left homeless. Funds promised by local authorities to rebuild the battle-torn community did not materialize. A cry of desperation arose from senior citizens, pioneers of the neighborhood once known as the Black Wall Street of America.
One year later, there were signs of the independence and resilience of the African-American community, as the business district began its rebuilding. In just a few years the Black Wall Street was completely rebuilt without outside assistance. In the mid-1970’s, urban renewal bulldozers were knocking down these walls from the past and older citizens protested – something must remain to preserve this proud legacy. An old, two-story house, “Prince-Mackey House,” which was rebuilt after the 1921 incident, was among those scheduled for demolition. The pioneers saw the house as a location for a heritage house, museum, or center to teach the history of the area to young people. The heritage house was spared and restored 10 years later. After 25 years of advocacy, what is now the $3 million Greenwood Cultural center was developed, with the first $100,000 being raised from the African-American community alone.
From this meager beginning the Center, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization, now operates a $500,000 program and operations budget and administers programs impacting more than 200 children per day. The Center has adopted three schools. It has many volunteers active in each of the after school programs. The Center is a facility that is igniting great pride in the community. It was an idea completely developed from the grassroots. Since 1995, the expanded facility and its programs remain a valuable symbol of African-American achievement.
The Greenwood Cultural Center uses the arts and history to teach children the value of learning and sharing cultural contributions to society. Summer Arts XII is a 4-week course that moves children ages 6 to 11 through visual and fine arts, dance and music. Started in 1986, it is the flagship program of the Center. It serves 50 to 75 students during the summer, engaging them in the art of storytelling and developing thematic stories through a Learning Quilt Project. Alcott Elementary School’s Arts, Athletics and Academics program (3 A’s) is an after school program that serves 150-200 children. A “PeaceBuilders” component was incorporated to counter school and community violence through positive peer pressure and conflict resolution. Music & Math, Singing & Science is a program at Lindsey Elementary School serving upper elementary and middle school students. Parents as Partners are volunteers in both the 3 A’s and Music & Math, Singing & Science Programs.
There is also the Women of Tomorrow program for young ladies ages 13-15, a Dance Academy that includes hip-hop, ballet, and tap dancing, a videography class to promote community awareness and ameliorate truancy that trains student photojournalists how to use cameras to record cultural community events.
The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame and the North Tulsa Heritage Foundation are also housed in the facility and, although separate, work collaboratively with the Center.