Commemorating the 185th anniversary of slavery being abolished in New York State, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History is hosting its annual prayer breakfast on Saturday, July 7 at 9 a.m. at Lehman College. Tulsa Race Riot survivor Dr. Olivia Hooker will serve as the keynote speaker for the event.
Along with being a survivor of one of the most horrific race riots in American history, Hooker is also an educator and clinical psychologist. At age 97, she lives in White Plains, N.Y. Earlier this year she was inducted into the Westchester County Senior Hall of Fame.
In a recent interview, she said that when she was 6 years old living in Tulsa, Okla., a mob of white men came into her house while her mother was cooking breakfast. The mob burned down a clothesline in the backyard and threw out the family’s meal. During the 1921 riot, Hooker said in the interview that she remembers hiding under a table with her siblings, fearing they would be shot. She retired at the age of 87 and today speaks out against racism that she says continues in America.
“I would want every single person to spend some time advocating for equality in employment and equality in education,” said Hooker. “Respect for people has nothing to do with the color of their skin. I still believe there is good in everyone. Maybe they’ve done a heinous crime, but somewhere there is good that can be brought out. That’s what we have to learn–how to deal with people who have no impulse control.”
In 1945, Hooker became the first African-American woman to enlist in the U.S. Coast Guard. She became a school psychologist after serving and worked at the Bedford Correctional Facility for Women. Hooker later taught psychology at Fordham University.
In 2010, the New York State Senate passed a resolution honoring Hooker for her work in psychology and educating people about the history of the Tulsa Race Riot.