Today, we grieve as George Floyd is laid to rest in Houston, two weeks after his murder. In the time following his death, we commemorated the 99th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, which makes even more pronounced the pain we feel watching the senseless killings of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and so many others. It is critical in this moment to state clearly that Black lives matter, and our words must be accompanied by action.
During the past two weeks, Gilcrease staff has examined our role in this movement. We had internal conversations on our current work and what we can do better moving forward. Almost three years ago, Gilcrease committed itself to reflecting voices from communities long under-represented in the narrative of American history and culture.
Since then, our exhibitions and programs have embraced increasing diversity – and that promise of inclusion will continue in 2021 with a traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian, Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth. This offering is an interrogation of what it means to be Black and male in America. It highlights the deep parallels between past and present, and we are eager to share it with Tulsa.
We cannot stop there. Systemic racism calls for systemic change.
We will deepen relationships with individuals and community partners to amplify the voices of the oppressed. We will create a diverse group of advisers to shape our work. We will further grow diversity among our staff and our governance.
Additionally, we will reschedule the public forums that were to take place in March just as COVID-19 brought a city-wide shutdown. These gatherings will help us better serve Tulsans, especially our marginalized communities.
The founder of our museum, Thomas Gilcrease, was a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation committed to ensuring that art and history inform the future to make a better world. If ever there was a time to build on this mission, it is now. The staff at Gilcrease Museum embraces the responsibility and the privilege to deliver on the promise of this mission. We are here, we are listening, and we must do better – together.