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The Black Wall Street Times

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TULSA, Okla. — The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Commission released a statement this afternoon, announcing their official position on reparations for the destruction of the Greenwood neighborhood. 

A White mob, numbered in the thousands, destroyed the Black community on May 31 and June 1 in 1921. All 36-square-blocks, of the prosperous community, was pillaged, burned and bombed. Upwards of 300 Black victims were massacred and buried in mass graves. The mob-damage is estimated at around 200 million in today’s dollars

The City of Tulsa nor Tulsa County have provided restitution for the three living survivors nor descendants of the massacre. 

The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission has issued the following statement: 

“We believe strongly in reparations. Our focus is on the larger scope of reparations, which means repairing past damages and making amends through acknowledgment, apology, and atonement. This process is central to racial reconciliation in Tulsa.

Survivors and descendants deserve remedy and reparation for the atrocities of 1921. The Centennial Commission’s work toward reparations falls in restitution through advocacy for investment in education, infrastructure and economic development in North Tulsa. While far from comprehensive, Greenwood Rising and subsequent programming and initiatives will serve to hold space for visitors to learn about our past and present in order to work for a future in which these horrific events never occur again.

Reparations, as discussed in the 2001 final report of the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, involve compensation at the individual and community levels, and there are organizations and advocates working diligently for that purpose.

Reparations may take both individual and communal forms. Monetary damages are a type of individual reparations, and we believe that this is an important subject for discussion. Monetary investments in public spaces, public facilities, and economic initiatives are a type of communal reparations. These forms of reparations are complementary, not mutually exclusive. Both are important.

The Centennial Commission and Greenwood Rising, the history center project it has led, seek to provide a platform where these issues can be discussed and moved forward in a meaningful manner.

Greenwood Rising honors the icons of Black Wall Street, memorializes the victims of the massacre, and examines the lessons of the past to inspire meaningful, sustainable action in the present. This truth-telling and education for all is aimed at repairing lingering historical racial trauma–working toward restoration–and charting a new, vibrant, inclusive course for the future.

We support the work of others who are similarly committed to the pursuit of justice through reparations and racial reconciliation.”

The statement now becomes a purity test for Republican Race Massacre Commissioners who, in the past, have said the conversation around reparations is divisive for the city

In February 2020, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum stated, “I’m not. I know people have opinions on that, but the things I’m focused on that’s just not a cash payment to people.” Bynum is a current 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Commissioner. 

Sen. James Lankford also said he wasn’t interested in discussing reparations at the 2019 John Hope Franklin Symposium. Sen. Lankford is up for reelection in 2022. 

“Our case for reparations align with the Commission’s core mission to provide education about the massacre, racial healing in our city and Nation, and economic empowerment in north Tulsa” said Phil Armstrong, Project Director of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission.  “While we are working fervently to accomplish this, we also stand in support of the work our community partners are doing to bring awareness and restorative justice to survivors and descendants.”

Editor’s Note: The Black Wall Street Times has reached out to Sen. Lankford and Mayor Bynum for statements. We’ll update the article if we hear from them. The Black Wall Street Times is also of the opinion that the Commission, local philanthropists, nor the Greenwood Rising history museum is responsible for providing reparations for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, but that of the City of Tulsa and Tulsa County is directly responsible. 

The Black Wall Street Times is a news publication located in Tulsa, Okla. and Atlanta, Ga. At The BWSTimes, we focus on elevating the stories of our beloved Greenwood community, elevating the stories of...