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  • Stuart Hetherwood

Introducing: OAKLAWN

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

A Documentary Film from the Center for Public Secrets and Well-Told


“OAKLAWN” tells the story behind the investigation into the search for unmarked graves at Tulsa's Oaklawn Cemetery stemming from the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.


A Public Oversight Committee was created as part of the City of Tulsa's 1921 Graves Investigation to assure "transparency and accountability." The Committee was made up of descendants of Race Massacre victims and leaders in Tulsa's African-American community.


The film highlights the bureaucratic hurdles through the knowledge and experiences of descendants and members of the Public Oversight Committee.


The Committee was repeatedly left in the dark about developments and left out of major decisions. The film reveals their experience and is told by the members themselves.


"They said we were the oversight Committee, but we really are the out-of-sight committee,” said State Rep. Regina Goodwin. Goodwin’s frustrations were felt by many in the Committee, who believed there was inconsistent communication and conflict with many of their wishes by City officials. The conflicts threatened to further poison relations between the City and Tulsa's African-American community.


On a deeper level, the film delves into the injustices that Black Americans face on a daily basis through inequities in all facets of life, including government and policing.


The film’s release came just as the City of Tulsa announced that officials will once again begin excavation fieldwork at Oaklawn Cemetery. The original excavation was abruptly terminated in June 2021 after the discovery of a single gunshot victim.


“OAKLAWN” was created and produced by the Center for Public Secrets, a Tulsa-based institution that explores the city’s hidden secrets through events, collaborations, and investigations in partnership with Well-Told, a creative agency based in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

For screening requests or additional information, please contact info@centerforpublicsecrets.org.


 
Are you looking for a way to get involved?

The easiest way to make your voice heard is to email the City of Tulsa and Mayor G.T. Bynum's office.


On November 18th, 2022 Mayor Bynum said, “to make them accessible to both the folks on the Oversight Committee but also anybody else that wants to participate in the meeting and the reality is at this point there is an international interest in this Investigation we’ve been doing those meetings virtually to maximize the number of people that can watch them and be able to get information from

them.”


Since the Centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, however, the City of Tulsa has stopped making Public Oversight Committee meetings accessible to the public with only a single exception. The City has also failed to post recordings of post-Centennial meetings on its 1921 Graves webpage or its YouTube channel. In September, the City refused even to record the Public Oversight Committee meeting. The public is being locked out.

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