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The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Legacy Fest featured three survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, Viola Ford Fletcher, Lessie Benningfield Randle, and Ellis Van Hughes, who led the Black Wall Street Memorial March on Friday morning.
In a horse-drawn carriage, “Mother” Fletcher, “Mother” Randle, and “Uncle Red” waved at the crowd, who quickly surrounded the trio in their ride, for an emotionally powerful and awe-inspiring moment among three people who survived the worst racial pogrom in history.
Following just behind Mother Fletcher, Mother Randle, and Uncle Red, was the African Ancestral Society, led by Chief Amusan. The group, whose members wore traditional African dress, sang and chanted around the carriage and the rest of the crowd.
Marching through Tulsa
The Black Wall Street Memorial March started at Carver Middle School on Greenwood, a Tulsa Public School which was recently featured for its focus on historic Greenwood, Black Wall Street, and the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. The school has an outdoor project that uses art murals and signs to highlight prominent events and figures of 1921, as well as before and after.
One mural, which depicts scenes of Greenwood and Black Wall Street burning, also celebrates the resilience of Greenwood in the months and years following the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
“I think it’s important for our students to understand what happened in Tulsa in 1921, and what they need to do to make sure we are building a community that is together and united for a positive change,” said principal Elton Sykes.
Marching for “reparations now”
The march, which went from Carver Middle School to the Greenwood Cultural Center, stopped several times for the crowd to chant their support to survivors, the community — and for reparations for survivors and descendants of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
Both “Mother” Randle is 106 years old and “Mother” Fletcher is 107. Both have memories of being forced to flee for their lives with their families during the massacre, which occurred from May 31 to June 2. “Uncle” Red was six months old, and escaped with his family in a covered wagon, with adults unable to rescue any family mementos. According to Uncle Red’s daughter, Malee Craft, the family left with only the clothes on their backs.
Other notable groups at the march were the Jewish Federation of Tulsa, made up of Temple Israel and Congregation B’nai Emunah; All Souls Church, carrying signs supporting reparations, and the Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.