Editorial: Tulsa needed Pastor Robert Turner of Vernon AME at this point in history | Editorial

Reverend Robert Turner of AME Church in Vernon prays in October 2020 as teams work on a second trial dig and core sampling as part of the Oaklawn Cemetery search for victims of the race massacre of Tulsa in 1921.


Vernon AME Pastor Robert Turner’s stay in Tulsa was only four years, but his mark will remain important in the history of the city.

Turner recently announced that he is leaving Tulsa to take up a position in Baltimore. He says he has not looked for the job but will “follow God”. Rather than wishing him a gloomy goodbye, we thank him for his service.

A pastor’s job is not easy or defined by a 40 hour work week. It is a consuming passion driven by a desire to make the world a better place in the sight of God, even for those who lack faith.

Turner pushed Tulsa to be better, often putting himself in front of angry crowds who sometimes hurled racist slurs. He has represented the city and its black residents on national platforms, working to inspire change for the future and achieve justice for the past.

Tulsa is not where it needs to be to tackle the racial divisions found in inequalities in almost every aspect of life, from housing to education to the police. There are lingering and generational mistrust in the city’s history: the 1921 race massacre, nefarious urban renewal projects, and unfair banking, healthcare, and business practices.

Turner spent his energy getting the Tulsans to face this reality experienced by his herd.

He took over the historic Vernon AME Church at 311 N. Greenwood Ave. – the only surviving structure from the massacre – when it experienced low footfall and expensive facility upgrades.

About Julius Southworth

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