OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — If you play an improvised jazz solo about the city’s African American culture, it might look a lot like what’s inside the Oklahoma Black Museum and Performing Arts Center.
It’s been nearly 15 years since Rosetta Funches took over what used to be a veterinarian’s office north of the Oklahoma State Capitol and turned it into a warren of shelves and displays.
“All kinds of art, history, publications,” she explains on a short tour.
She grew up in a tiny, unincorporated Black community called ‘West-town’ in the days when harmful stereotypes and segregation held sway.
Looking at a wall full of old advertisements featuring Black stereotypes, she tells us, “They used to call black folks ‘pickaninnies.'”
After moving back from California, she and several friends were determined to preserve a rich history that included early jazz and blues giants, fights for equality, and art.
“This is Earl Davis,” she states, pointing at a shelf of wood and metal sculpture.
They collected as much history as they could.
Rosetta started her own online radio station.
She and a volunteer staff collected books for a research library.
“I asked God to give me music and culture in my last days,” she relates.
The museum she started is literally stuffed with everything from art to Zulu robes, which brings us to her own dream to better preserve this rich cultural stew.
“How are you going to know it if somebody doesn’t tell it?” she queries.
Plans have been drawn and re-drawn for a larger museum facility and a National African American Jazz Museum.
Rosetta argues, “You tell me what’s better than jazz? In the whole world, tell me a bigger art form than jazz and I’ll eat your hat. It’s something that we all need to have here in Oklahoma. Just like you said, ‘Is Oklahoma great or what’?”
For more information, visit the Oklahoma Black Museum and Performing Arts Center and the Jazz Museum.
‘Is This a Great State or What?’ is sponsored by WEOKIE.