POSTED ON MAY 7, 2008:
Local media/marketing chief to produce video series in support of Memorial to Race Riot
Getting the Job Done. Budget troubles and a change in leadership and priorities have since derailed that plan. Reuban Gant, president and CEO of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, has since been lobbying the Legislature and Gov. Brad Henry for the remaining $1.3 million so he can finish the project.
The ongoing and uphill efforts to build the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation is getting a much-needed shot in the arm, much to the delight of Reuben Gant, a prime mover on the project and the president and CEO of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce.
"This is really going to help with visibility, and it will make legislators more aware of the funding we need for the project," he told UTW.
Brant Fricker of Rollins Communications, a local marketing agency that counts Mazzio's, Rib Crib and Lexus among its clients, has "graciously offered his assistance" to the project by creating a series of video messages to be featured on the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce's website, Gant said.
Readers likely remember last year's cover story article, "Never Again," which ran in the Nov. 29-Dec. 5 issue of UTW (online at urbantulsa.com), which told of the efforts of Gant and other members of the Oklahoma Historical Society's Race Riot Memorial Committee in recent years to carry out the recommendation of the state Tulsa Race Riot Commission.
That recommendation was to build a memorial to the 1921 tragedy in the Greenwood District, between Elgin and Detroit Avenues, just south of the Martin Luther King Expressway.
Along with approving that recommendation in 2002, the state Legislature also apportioned $5 million for the project, to be disbursed in yearly $1 million increments.
But, budget troubles and a change in leadership and priorities have since derailed that plan, and only $3.7 million has been appropriated so far, with the last installment apportioned in 2004.
Gant has since been lobbying the Legislature and Gov. Brad Henry for the remaining $1.3 million so he can finish the project.
He's visited the Capitol on more than one occasion to show lawmakers concept drawings of the project, as well as photographs of the already-built monuments.
Gant said he's received what he thought were positive responses, but that's all he's received so far.
In other words, he still hasn't seen that $1.3 million.
With Fricker's help, though, Gant thinks there's a possibility that that might change.
He said the videos will be an easy and effective way to direct the attention of legislators and members of the public to the project, to "let them know that they've already invested millions of dollars into this, and it would be a waste not to follow through on that promise."
Also, the content of the videos will, just as his in-person presentations about the project do, show that "the implications are much larger than just the 1921 race riot," Gant said, but that the focus of the monument is on the larger issue of reconciliation and improvements in race relations.
The John Hope Franklin Center will include three pieces of sculpted bronze, by renowned African American artist Ed Dwight, each depicting a different aspect of the 1921 riot.
In addition, it will include a larger piece, also by Dwight, depicting African Americans' broader history.
"This will bring a heightened awareness of the need for different cultures to learn more about each other, and that the time has come for us to recognize that we are becoming a more diverse society, which has been brought to the forefront by the presidential election," said Gant, making obvious reference to the racial issues addressed by Democratic presidential candidate and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in answer to the racially-charged statements made by his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
In addition to the cultural, moral and spiritual benefits, Gant said he hopes the new media campaign will also underscore the economic benefits the memorial will bring.
According to an economic impact study conducted by Oklahoma State University, which looked at similar sites throughout the country for comparison, the memorial park is expected to bring in $6.4 million tourist dollars to the area each year, he said.
Rollins Communications is donating its filming and production services, which Fricker said would cost anywhere between $7,000 and $10,000, "just for the video alone."
"There's a lot of people out there saying, 'Yeah, we'll help you, if you have ten grand in your pocket,' but who's got that?" said Fricker.
He called the services offered at his advertising agency "Hollywood marketing on a Mayberry budget."
"I just met Reuben. I like him a lot, and I really want to see this thing happen," Fricker also told UTW.
"Anybody who wants to benefit the community, whether it's something like this or it's their business, I'm interested in helping them," he added.
The videos about the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation should be complete and posted online by the time this goes to print, Gant said.
They can be viewed at the Greenwood Chamber's website at GreewoodChamberTulsa.com.
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