All eyes are on Tulsa, Oklahoma, this week as the nation remembers the tragic events of May 31 to June 1, 1921, when a White mob killed some 300 Black residents and looted the community known as “Black Wall Street” before burning it to the ground.
The official agenda put forth by the city’s Centennial Commission offered a slew of redeeming events, including a candlelight vigil, an economic empowerment day featuring actor and author Hill Harper, and a day of learning with scholar Cornel West.
But all is not as it seems on this centennial anniversary. In the midst of dozens of advertised events and a slew of legislative, celebrity, and corporate endorsements, a more troubling story has unfolded behind the scenes.
This cease-and-desist letter from one of the survivors to the commission says it all:
Further, you are aware that the Commission refused to meet with Mother Randle and her representatives despite repeated requests for meetings and dialogue. You are also aware that the Commission rejected Mother Randle’s request that the Commission utilize some of the $30M the Commission raised “leveraging the rich history of the Tulsa Race Massacre” and/or revenue generated by the Rising museum to directly benefit the living survivors and descendants of those who suffered because of the Massacre
The commission, formed by the City of Tulsa in 2016, was created to begin the work of healing the community and repairing the damage done to North Tulsa residents. The organization and its highly organized publicity machine raised funds for Greenwood Rising, a 7,000-square-foot, $31-million museum that is now nearly complete. It launched arts and scholarship programs and promised to revitalize the North Tulsa community—all efforts that, at least on the surface, seemed laudable.
Yet no one offered any sort of reparations to the survivors: the before-mentioned Lessie Benningfield Randle, 106; Viola Fletcher, 107; and Hughes Van Ellis Sr., 100. Even when overtures were made by the survivors to meet with commission…