In the wake of national outrage evoked by the fatal police shooting of Terence Crutcher, hundreds of people gathered Sunday to show their support for justice through poetry and music.
The Rally for Justice, held at the Greenwood Cultural Center, 322 N. Greenwood Ave., provided a way to explore how to improve community-police relations, said Gerald Harris, event organizer.
Harris, a Tulsa native, is an MMA fighter and fitness instructor.
“The death of Terence Crutcher brought us here today, but that’s not why we’re here,” Harris said. “When you leave this place, I want you to be a different person.”
After dozens of people were brought to their feet during a musical performance, about 10 speakers led a discussion on how to improve the community’s relationship with law enforcement.
Some chose to express themselves through poetry or songs while others focused on tangible practices.
Vanessa Hall-Harper, who is running for city council district one, said the issue is not about being against law enforcement.
“My husband is a police officer,” Harper said, adding that he’s been on the force for more than 20 years. “I back the blue, too — but I back the good blue. I don’t back the blue that does wrong and wants to cover it up.”
Harper suggested that the creation of an African-American Affairs Commission would help to better represent the needs of the community and promote unity, urging that government involvement is key for understanding.
T’erra Estes, founder of the Teach Not Punish Family Resource Center, said healthy relationships are key to building unity and overcoming adversity, but people have to be willing to take initiative.
“The way that I treat you affects me and the way that you treat me affects you,” Estes said.
She told the story of a girl who struggled academically but found her passion in basketball until she was plagued by a leg injury and later became pregnant.
“She felt hopeless, defeated, stupid, irresponsible and very disappointed in herself,” Estes said. “She wanted help, but didn’t know where to start.”
Things turned around when she asked for support.
“Now, 15 years later, she has graduated from Langston University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, is currently a student at the Texas Woman’s University, she has 10 years of experience as an educator, has been married 10 years and has three children,” Estes said.
“Now, I am known as T’erra Estes, founder and CEO of the Teach Not Punish Family Resource Center.”
Novelist Rilla Askew said she had to take initiative to overcome the prejudice she learned growing up and offered ways to combat adversity.
“I don’t argue with racists — that just gives them power,” Askew said. “You can’t argue someone into changing their views.”
Alternately, she said, it’s important to be armed with facts and thought-provoking questions to start a conversation that may affect how someone perceives a situation or issue.
The rally, which lasted about three hours, ended with words from Rajaee Fatihah of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
He said the most important thing is for everyone to be involved.
“This is not just a black issue,” Fatihah said. “This is not an issue only important to communities of color. This is a matter of the public trust and public institutions faithfully executing their duties. This affects everyone.”