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The legendary musician who brought us “Ordinary People” reminded the nation that the extraordinary harm a White mob inflicted on Black Tulsans 100 years ago requires repair today.

john legend reparations
(Photo: Christopher Polk/NBC)

Singer John Legend unapologetically announced his support for reparations for descendants and survivors of one of the worst acts of racial terror in the nation’s history, when thousands of jealous White would-be lynchers burned, bombed and looted Greenwood’s famous Black Wall Street, leveling more than 35 square blocks to rubble.

“Our collective work starts by confronting our past, openly and honestly–by teaching and learning about the most painful chapters of our history, right alongside our most noble ideals and aspirations,” the 42-year-old Grammy-award winning artist wrote on Twitter.

Supporting reparations for a resilient Black community

“But our work doesn’t end at remembering and discussing the truth. It extends to reparations–to break the vicious, persistent cycle of anti-Black racism and inequality set in motion by slavery and Jim Crow; to spur investment in the businesses and communities that have had so much stolen from and denied to them,” he added.

While the resilient Black community undoubtedly rebuilt and continued thriving, urban removal and gentrification have reduced the former wealthy community to a mere block today, along with other Black-owned businesses scattered throughout the city but mostly in historically Black north Tulsa.

John Legend’s support comes just days after the star-studded “Remember and Rise” event–an event sponsored by the politically-appointed Centennial Commission that was supposed to feature Stacey Abrams and Legend himself–was cancelled. 

Tulsa mayor says no to reparations from city funds

While mainstream media quickly latched onto the Commission’s narrative that an attorney representing the survivors and descendants greedily demanded more money for himself, it was the Associated Press which accurately explained that Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons is pushing for more resources to go to survivors, descendants, and the community, not himself.

Meanwhile, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum continues his media tour bashing the idea of direct cash payments to victims and descendants. Recently, he told Public Radio Tulsa reparations shouldn’t come from city funds. He confidently uttered the words, despite the fact that the city aided and abetted in the 100-year old massacre of a thriving Black community that Booker T. Washington dubbed “Negro Wall Street.”

“While we won’t be together tomorrow, I look forward to visiting with you in the near future, and, most importantly, to a true reckoning and reparations for the survivors and their descendants,” John Legend wrote yesterday.

Organizers for Justice for Greenwood, a non-profit created by Attorney Solomon-Simmons to gain respect, reparations, and repair for the Greenwood community, praised the singer-songwriter for his support.

“Thank you to John Legend for honoring the survivors of the massacre and recognizing that the path forward for truth, justice, and accountability begins with reparations. Mother Randle, Mother Fletcher, and Hughes Van Ellis have waited long enough for justice — we cannot spare another day in delivering them reparations so we can begin to heal and move forward together,” Attorney Solomon-Simmons, Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, and Greg Robinson II said in a joint statement.

“For a century, the survivors, descendants, and the community of Greenwood have been unable to shake the weight of the legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Its continued harms haunt us to this very day, contributing to the gross inequities leaving the Black community in Tulsa with a shortened life span, lower pay, fewer opportunities for job or economic mobility, higher rates of heart disease and diabetes, and a disturbing school-to-prison pipeline. The first step to addressing these systemic issues and dismantling the forces of white supremacy begins with respect, repair, and restitution,” they added.

The city on Wednesday plans to vote on a resolution that recognizes the city’s role in the massacre. It also calls for a study on reparations.

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...