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The Roundup

Group Calls for the Renaming of Tulsa’s Brady District

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Posted 05.06.13

A group of Tulsans is calling for the removal of the name “Brady” from a popular downtown business and arts district.

Using a story published by This Land in 2011, which revealed Tulsa founder Tate Brady to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan and an orchestrator of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, the group, led by Kristi Williams, James Johnson, and Egunewale Amusan, plans to address the Tulsa City Council at its May 16 meeting to request the renaming of the Brady Arts District, Brady Street, the Brady Theater, and the Brady Heights neighborhood.

The group drafted a resolution, which reads:

Whereas, Tate Brady is the namesake of the Brady Arts District, Brady Street, and Brady Heights Neighborhood;
Whereas, Tate Brady was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, a terrorist organization;
Whereas, Tate Brady incited the riot of June 1, 1921.
Be it resolved by the City Council of the City of Tulsa calling for the renaming of Brady Arts District, Brady Street, Brady Theater, and Brady Heights Neighborhood.

Williams said, when This Land originally published “The Nightmare of Dreamland” by Lee Roy Chapman, there was some talk of changing the name of the Brady Arts District, but “no one pressed the issue.” She said she and the other organizers were speaking to Wess Young, a Race Riot survivor, recently, and “we were like, you know, they really do need to change that name.”

“I drove by there one day and saw how business is booming and I thought, this is all under Brady’s name. And I thought about who he was, and it just didn’t sit well,” she said.

The group hopes to convince the Tulsa City Council to change the name “the proper way.”

“If we don’t get results, all we can do is protest,” she said. “We want to let people know who Tate Brady was if they don’t know.” She said she doesn’t want to hinder business in the area, but she personally won’t spend money there until the name is changed.

Councilor Blake Ewing, whose district includes downtown, told This Land via his aide that he doesn’t have any comments on the topic at the moment. Requests for comment from Councilor Jack Henderson, whose district includes North Tulsa, and Mayor Dewey Bartlett, were unanswered.

State Rep. Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, told Carle King, host of Caleidoscope Radio Network’s Open Mic Talk Show: “I look at this just like any other disaster or any other thing that’s wrong—I think we should all put our heads together, all sit down and discuss the issue and be strategic in our approach.”

He didn’t lend his support to the name-changing efforts (nor did he argue against them), but said: “I’m following the constituents, but I think we need to have extensive dialogue and act cohesively.”

FOX23 reported on the issue earlier this week:

FOX23 spoke with several business owners in the Brady District, off camera, no one agreed to speak on camera, but all of them said they didn’t see a point in protesting.

“The problem is, nobody wants to talk about it,” said Johnson.

Johnson said he’s not pitting black against white, but rather right, versus wrong.

“That’s all they have to do: just do right,” said Johnson.

The group plans to protest within the next two weeks.

According to previous FOX23 reports, Brady’s family denied his involvement in the KKK.

On Saturday, Matthews announced, via his Facebook page, that he would host a forum on May 18 for interested citizens to “voice your concerns to all of our elected officials.” He wrote: “At the end of our meeting we will decide what steps need to be taken to address the issue effectively. Divided we get the results we have currently… WE MUST NOT CRITICIZE but STRATEGIZE! Please come out and help us become respected again as a district.”

FOX23 reported on the initial conversation about changing the Brady District’s name in September of 2011, when This Land’s story was published:

As for getting rid of the Brady name on maps and street signs. Tulsa’s Traffic Operations Manager says citizens would need to get the people they put in City Hall on board.
“It really has to go through the council first. You get a councilman to sponsor it, they have to approve it at a general council meeting, and then it goes to the mayor to be signed,” Mark Brown said.
Once the mayor signs it taxpayers foot the bill, and it’s not cheap.
“An average street sign just changed out fully, labor and materials equipment you’re probably going to be looking at $70 to $90,” Brown said.
The process takes about six to nine months from start to finish. The Brady name is here to stay for now.

Williams likened the Brady District’s name to the idea of naming Bricktown in Oklahoma City the “McVeigh District.” She said: Basically, the historical society here said Tate Brady is important because he made a huge contribution to Tulsa—and he did. He put a lot of money into Tulsa. But what if (Timothy) McVeigh’s family were rich, and they decided to put a lot of money into Oklahoma City, and OKC said, regardless of the past, we’re going to name this district the McVeigh District?”