Black history is American history, but over the course of the past four centuries, Black history has too often been ignored, erased or altered, because systemic racism in America affects nearly every institution in the country, including education.
And while no one person is going to change things overnight, Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett is trying to do his part, creating, in partnership with Fulton Street Books & Coffee, the Black History Collection, a series of bookmarks that feature the likeness of Lockett on one side and a fact about Black history in Oklahoma on the other.
The bookmarks, which can be purchased on the Fulton Street Books & Coffee website, are sold as two packs of eight for $16, or all 16 for $30. Half of the proceeds go to Fulton Street, Tulsa's only Black-owned bookstore, and the other half go to Black-owned businesses in Oklahoma chosen by Lockett and his uncle, Aaron Lockett, who helped launch the project.
One needs to look no further than Lockett's hometown to see the value of this project, both in that it promotes learning about Black history and that it supports Black-owned businesses. This week marked the 100th anniversary of the 1921 attack on the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa that came to be known as the Tulsa Race Massacre. It's an ugly piece of this country's history that until recently was unknown to a lot of Americans, particularly white ones, because like too much of our country's history it is either glossed over or ignored all together when it comes to school curriculums.
"It's very important," Lockett said of promoting Black history. "A lot of people don't really understand the history and what took place. A lot of that was even swept away, and people are just now starting to hear about it. They're just now starting to learn about it. And you know, this is the 100th year that's coming up this month, and so with it being 100th year, just being able to talk about the history of what it was like in Oklahoma, how growing up was in Oklahoma, because it was a place where African Americans excelled. It was a place where they called it Little Africa. It was a place where people were doing great things in business and all that different type of stuff. And so this idea, it's us trying to be able to invest again. Invest in ourselves, into the community of African Americans that are doing great things in business. And this is a way that we thought it could be something that could be really cool going into this month."
And the Black History Connections isn't the only way Lockett has given back to his community this offseason. Lockett also recently pledged 12 scholarships worth $10,000 apiece for college-bound graduates from Tulsa Public Schools' six high schools. In past years, Lockett's Light it Up Foundation has worked with Tulsa and Seattle-based business to create a job-shadowing program that allows high school students to gain experience in different fields and in different parts of the country. The COVID-19 pandemic mean job shadows weren't an option this past year, so Lockett instead decided to give out the $10,000 scholarships.
"We wanted to be able to invest in them," Lockett said. "We want them to know that they deserve to shine. And we get it, circumstances prevent people from doing a lot of things. Sometimes the family that you grow up in prevents you from a lot of things, because you have to make sacrifices. But what we want to do is to invest in them so they can see just how important they are, that we believe in them as well and hopefully they take advantage of that and they become whoever they dreamed of becoming, and they can be able to use what has happened with us and them to be able to go and inspire the next generation to come."