Russell Westbrook is headed back to Oklahoma.
No, that’s not breaking news about a surprise NBA trade.
The guard for the Houston Rockets and former superstar of the Oklahoma City Thunder is producing a new docuseries about the Tulsa Race Massacre, the nation’s worst act of post-slavery violence against African-American citizens in United States history. It occurred on May 31 & June 1, 1921, destroying a wealthy bureau of black-run businesses known as Black Wall Street, and will mark its 100th Anniversary next year.
Titled Terror In Tulsa: The Rise And Fall of Black Wall Street, Westbrook’s series will be directed by Stanley Nelson, the producer of the acclaimed and popular three-episode Netflix docuseries Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez. Blackfin, the production company behind that series, will also finance this one. No word was given on how many episodes Terror In Tulsa may have.
Narratively, the series will weave the history of the Tulsa Race Massacre with events from today and in-between, creating an historical context for the Massacre and the legacy of violent racism in America. The producers hope to craft an “urgent, sobering look at the social, economic and political lines that continue to divide the country.”
In a statement, Nelson said:
- “I am so very honored to partner with Russell Westbrook and Blackfin to direct Terror In Tulsa. There is no story more poignant or relevant to the racially charged events unfolding before us today, the frustration, the outrage, the outcry for justice in the wake of the George Floyd killing. The story of Tulsa reveals a significant chapter in the American experience leading up to this moment. It is a story that needs to be treated with dignity, grounded in cultural authenticity, and portrayed with historical accuracy in order to truly understand the impact it has had on our nation. From the cover-ups of the massacre in 1921, to the uncovering of the mass graves left in its wake, the story of Tulsa is the harsh example of not only the history of violence against black people in America, but also the great American sin of burying it out of sight, and pretending that it never happened. For many, it is hard to believe such an atrocity occurred. For others, these atrocities are simply part of the American journey.”
Westbrook, who played the first 11 years of his NBA career in Oklahoma City, also released a statement:
- “Spending 11 years in Oklahoma opened my eyes to the rich and sordid history of the state. When I learned about the heartbreaking events that happened in Tulsa nearly 100 years ago, I knew this was a story I wanted to tell. It’s upsetting that the atrocities that transpired then, are still so relevant today. It’s important we uncover the buried stories of African Americans in this country. We must amplify them now more than ever if we want to create change moving forward.”
Westbrook and Nelson will seek input and collaboration from a variety of historical organizations including the Tulsa Historical Society & Museum, The John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation, the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, and the Historic Vernon AME Church.
No network distributor or streaming service partner has been set, or a broadcast date announced.
The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre became a topic of pop culture discussion last fall when HBO’s The Watchmen dramatized the event in its pilot episode. The series then used that as a foundation for its alt-history plot line.