Frances Jordan-Rakestraw, executive director of Greenwood Cultural Center, is a K-12 product of Tulsa Public Schools. She attended Ralph J. Bunche and John Burroughs elementaries, Roosevelt Junior High and Central High. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in business administration at Northeastern State University, Jordan-Rakestraw held numerous corporate jobs and became the first black woman in Tulsa’s history to become an executive assistant. She worked for Gerock Swanson of the Swanson frozen-food empire before moving to California, where she co-owned three computer stores. In 1996, she came home to work at Greenwood Cultural Center. We caught up with Jordan-Rakestraw and got her thoughts on …
… her path to Greenwood.
I returned to Tulsa with the intent to retire. I agreed to assist at the Greenwood Cultural Center for a few months, which has turned into 23 years. I’ve remained during its roughest times. However, the future of the Greenwood Cultural Center is certainly a bright one.
… the center’s programs.
The Greenwood Cultural Center has enjoyed over two decades as a beacon of community engagement in the city. Our Summer Arts Program is a successful endeavor, serving over 100 at-risk children each year. Since 2008, we’ve hosted the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools program, serving 110 children, from kindergarteners to fifth graders, who are from low-income families, mostly from North Tulsa. Greenwood Cultural Center has also been a hub for arts-based programming for children with classes such as African dance, hip hop dance, visual and theater arts, and tap and ballet classes.
… the center’s collections.
The collections of African art and historical artifacts, such as photographs and newspaper articles, showcase relevant examples of the brilliance and resilience of the African- American people. Greenwood Cultural Center offers pictorial exhibits that provide an educational experience regarding the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and Black Wall Street, and we do tours of the Mabel B. Little Heritage house, which gives visitors insight into life in historic Greenwood District. Our mission is to preserve African-American heritage and promote positive images of the African-American community by providing educational and cultural experiences, encouraging inter-cultural exchange and facilitating cultural tourism. The center is adjacent to a burgeoning arts district, ONEOK Field, highway access, and many restaurants, hotels and cultural attractions.
… her legacy.
Many of the children served at Greenwood Cultural Center are now educators, motivational speakers, accountants, coaches, professors and even a former senator. My plan is to continue to reach as many children as possible. I understand the good feeling of making a difference. After all, it’s our responsibility to help and serve others.