How to Commemorate the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre This Weekend

The centennial anniversary happens this week, with events-both IRL and virtual-happening all through June.

Vineyard Perspective/Shutterstock
Vineyard Perspective/Shutterstock
Vineyard Perspective/Shutterstock

In early 1921, Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood was humming with commerce and entrepreneurship. Dubbed “Black Wall Street,” these 35 blocks contained the wealthiest Black community in the country-a “by Black people for Black people” utopia successful both because of and in spite of Jim Crow laws: This land above the railroad tracks was “only to be sold to the colored,” who were only allowed to shop within its boundaries.

But Greenwood’s 10,000 residents had no need to go anywhere else. The bustling community had restaurants, shops, churches, a skating rink, and movie theaters. It had its own hospital, post office, library, school system, black-owned newspapers and even private airplanes. Six of them. Residents could get dolled up in Mable B. Little’s beauty salon before strolling over to John and Loula Williams’s Dreamland theater, then spend the night in Simon Berry’s boutique hotel (Berry was apparently quite the visionary entrepreneur. His jitney company paved the way for the current-day Tulsa Transit service).

Then on the morning of May 30th Dick Rowland, a Black shoeshiner, and Sarah Page, a 17-year-old white elevator operator, had an encounter in an elevator, which turned into an allegation by Page of sexual assault. (One theory is that Rowland tripped and grabbed onto the arm of Page to stop from falling.) Rowland was arrested and was being held at the Tulsa County Courthouse when a white mob descended, threatening lynching. Black men came to the courthouse to protect Rowland, and in a scuffle a gunshot rang out. 

Then, the dam broke. White residents, some deputized and given weapons by city officials, invaded Greenwood; private aircraft that just happened to be locked and loaded with bombs attacked from above. When the fighting ended on June 1st, 800 people were sent to the hospital, an estimated 300 died, and more than 1250 homes were burned. The 35-block affluent Black utopia was turned to rubble. 

Decades later, the memory of those two horrific days has mostly been left to the city’s residents. But shows like HBO’s The Watchmen and Lovecraft Country have recently put the Greenwood Massacre back into the spotlight.  This week, a resolution passed by the Senate acknowledges the Tulsa Race Massacre as the “worst in US history,” and calls for the Greenwood District to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Possible mass gravesites of the riots have also begun to be exhumed by city officials, working with archaeologists, driving home the significance of 1921’s Greenwood to young Tulsa residents like Carel Lee-Bernard, who moved to the city last year as part of the Tulsa Remote program. “We live across the street from a cemetery. Under any other circumstances we’d be like ‘Oooh, a cemetery, that’s really creepy!’ Lee-Bernard said.  “But this cemetery was recently exhumed for bodies of Black and brown people who they think died during the massacre. We call it our cemetery, because we think of it like: We live three minutes from historical Greenwood District. And the people buried in that cemetery were people who look like us.”

This weekend, the city commemorates the centennial of the massacre with a packed roster of events-some virtual, so you can participate even if you aren’t in the area. 

Through May 29th, the 12th Annual Reconciliation in America National Symposium discusses “The Future of Tulsa’s Past: The Centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre and Beyond,” both in-person and online. On May 31st, a candlelight vigil will also be broadcast virtually. 

And if you’re in Tulsa, the free Black Wall Street Legacy Festival brings a weekend of music and parades; the main event on Sunday is hosted by actors Alfre Woodard and Jay Ellis. On May 28th is a dedication of the Pathway to Hope, which connects the Greenwood District to the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park; and on June 2nd is a dedication to Greenwood Rising, the new world-class center focused on the history of Greenwood. The center officially opens on July 3rd, with admission free for the first year. 

June 3rd is the free National Day of Learning, with a discussion facilitated by Dr. Cornel West. June 3rd also kicks off a run of a new historical play about the event told through true stories. On June 6th, the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra joins Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to present his All Rise (Symphony No.1), that “was written with themes of unity and spiritual ascendance.” And from June 17 to 20 you can catch the Tulsa Juneteenth Festival, a weekend of music, food, arts and entertainment, featuring paintings by Amy Sherald (who also did the official portrait of Michelle Obama). Admission is free. Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat!

Vanita Salisbury is Thrillist’s Senior Travel Writer.


Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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