Vernon AME Prayer Wall Dedication

Vernon AME Prayer Wall Dedication

Monday, May 31st, marked the 100th Anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. In Tulsa, the Greenwood District was known as Black Wall Street, a thriving community of black-owned businesses, organizations, and places of worship. Last weekend the Greenwood District hosted dozens of events to commemorate the horrific destruction and violence that occurred 100 years ago.

Monday, May 31st, marked the 100th Anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. In Tulsa, the Greenwood District was known as Black Wall Street, a thriving community of black-owned businesses, organizations, and places of worship. Last weekend the Greenwood District hosted dozens of events to commemorate the horrific destruction and violence that occurred 100 years ago. The appalling numbers estimate that over 300 were killed, the Greenwood District lost 600 businesses, and 1,256 homes were destroyed. Over $200 million was lost in today's dollars.  

The Historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church basement was the only structure to survive the destruction. Faith leaders from various religions and denominations represented their communities during two special events at Vernon AME on Monday to remember the tragic events and to empower a message of hope. The events included a Revival (God of Our Weary Years) in Vernon's Sanctuary and the declaration of a Prayer Wall for Racial Healing.

The Revival featured gospel music, prayers from civil rights icon the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and a fiery sermon from AME Bishop Michael Mitchell. Near the beginning of the service, The Rev. Dr. Robert Turner, pastor of Historic Vernon AME, recognized The Rt. Rev. Bishop Poulson Reed and the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma for their $164,000 contribution from the Bishop's Annual Appeal. Dr. Turner noted that this was the most significant gift from a faith-based organization outside the African Methodist Episcopal denomination.  

After the service, the clergy gathered outside the church to meet hundreds of people and media for the Prayer Wall Dedication. Dr. Turner explained how the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem inspired the Vernon AME Prayer Wall. He hopes that the place will be a sacred space for generations of people to make pilgrimage to from all walks of life and faith to seek healing and reconciliation in the name of racial justice.  

Dr. Turner introduced guest speakers from various faith traditions, including the following: Rabbi Marc Fitzerman of Tulsa's Congregation B'nai Emunah, the Rev. David Konderla, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Tulsa; the Rt. Rev. Poulson Reed, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma; and the Rev. Shannon Fleck, executive director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, minister and social activist of the Poor People's Campaign the Rev. William Barber, U.S. Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester and U.S. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, along with Barbara Lee of California, members of the Congressional Black Caucus.  

Speakers also included leaders from the Islamic faith who shared a chant and prayer. St. Crispins' Summer Camp alum, Marta Reiman, represented the Buddhist community of Tulsa. Cherokee community leaders, including Rep. Kimberley Teehee, were the last to speak, welcoming the crowd to the Cherokee reservation and a call for continued racial healing. The dedication ended with the song" Life Every Voice and Sing" and a closing prayer from the Rev. Jesse Jackson.  

Bishop Poulson reflects on the day, "I was honored and humbled to participate, with other faith leaders, in the ceremony dedicating and blessing the prayer wall at Historic Vernon A.M.E. Church. Our Bishop's Appeal in the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma in December raised over $164,000 for this prayer wall project and the renovation of Vernon's kitchen, used for their feeding ministry. This was, we hope, the beginning of a deeper relationship between our diocese and Vernon. To touch this wall at the ceremony yesterday, with the other faith leaders present, was both heartbreaking and hopeful. Heartbreaking because on this tragic anniversary, we remember the worst that human being beings can do to one another out of hatred and racism. Hopeful, because this prayer wall stands as a symbol of the commitment of many faith groups in Oklahoma to do the hard work of repairing the breaches among us, with God's help."

To watch the Revival CLICK HERE.

For more pictures of the event CLICK HERE.

To read the Tulsa World’s article on the event CLICK HERE.

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