• Press Release

“Hate Crimes in the Heartland,” Documentary on Racial Tensions in the United States, to Screen Across the Country

January 13, 2015

Hate Crimes in the Heartland, an award winning documentary film by Emmy Award winner Rachel Lyon, will embark on a national tour in 2015, beginning with a screening at the Cleveland Museum of Art on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The film explores the national conversation on race through the lens of two hate crimes in Tulsa, Oklahoma that occurred over 90 years apart.

Hate Crimes in the Heartland tells powerful stories of survivors, activists, leaders, and community members.

“The film explores current and past hate crimes in our nation, asking important questions related to social justice and our individual responsibility, along with a true examination of the media’s influence on the justice system,“ said Lyon.

The film begins in Tulsa in April 2012, when two white males drove through the African-American Greenwood neighborhood targeting blacks at random, killing three people and leaving two others in critical condition. Terrified community leaders united with government and law enforcement, who led a successful manhunt. The film follows the murders, social media uproar, manhunt and capture of the suspects who are now serving life sentences.

Hate Crimes in the Heartland compares this recent hate crime to what is known as the “1921 Tulsa Race Riot”: when whites attacked the black community, burning down the wealthy “Negro Wall Street” district of Greenwood, and leaving up to 300 dead and more than 10,000 homeless.

More than 90 years later, these two crimes reveal the story of the racial animosity and inequality that have come to plague modern society and culture in the United States. Hate Crimes in the Heartland explores these events, exposing a city forever divided, and revealing the dangerous connections between the media, power, race and justice.

The Ford Foundation is a major funder of Lyon's project, which is partnering with Amnesty International USA and Harvard Law School's John Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice to bring the film to screenings across the country.

Hate Crimes in the Heartland revisits powerful moments in American history — past and present — that remind us of the profound racial tensions that have shaped the country’s trajectory,” said JustFilms Director Cara Mertes of the Ford Foundation.

Heartland gives an honest accounting of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, revealing Tulsa’s story in the context of racial disparity happening in every city in America today as well, ” said Harvard Law professor, Charles Ogletree.


“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. asserted that civil rights are human rights, and that is the message that we take away from this film,” said Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “Given the historical racial tensions of the last century and the ongoing racial violence of today, we must work to build a culture that values and believes in human rights if we hope to overcome these problems."

Lyon will appear at a panel following the 2:00 pm Cleveland screening on January 19 along with Rev. Courtney Clayton Jenkins, senior pastor and teacher of the South Euclid United Church of Christ; Bettysue Feuer, regional chair and National Commission member of the local Anti-Defamation League; Rev. Dr. Jawanza Colvin, pastor of the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church; and Skyler Edge, a local LGBTQ activist. The panel will be moderated by Russ Mitchell of WKYC-TV.

Co-producer Pi Isis Ankhra and associate producers Reggie Turner and Bavand Karim join Rachel Lyon on the Project. Partners include the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, Harvard Law School, New Jersey City University, Northern Kentucky University, DePaul University, Northeast Church of Christ of Oklahoma City and the John Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice.

The film is scheduled to be screened at the following events, with speakers and panels to be confirmed at some locations:

  • January 19: Cleveland Museum of Art (tickets available at no charge)
  • January 31: San Diego Black Film Festival
  • February 19: Harvard University, Boston
  • March 24: Cincinnati JCC
  • April 8: New School, New York City