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GREENWOOD Dist.–My name is Tanner Frank, and I am a victim of generational trauma.

After being raised in a town where I’m a descendant of one of the wealthiest families of the Black Wall Street era of Tulsa, Oklahoma, I have felt the effect of fighting for what is right for years alongside other descendants and our remaining survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre, only to face set back after set back.

What is generational trauma, you may ask? According to Talkspace.com, generational trauma is the transference of traumatic experiences or stressors from one generation to the next.

With that being said, the lawsuit over the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, which we’ve been fighting for since September 2020, and the decision to dismiss the case with prejudice on July 7, adds yet another catalyst to my trauma and that of others.

Generational trauma continues unabated

Even with the facts so clear — records of filed insurance claims, lists of all the Black businesses lost, pictures — and even to this day, the three living survivors: Hughes Van Ellis, 102; Viola Ford Fletcher, 109; and Lessie Benningfield Randle, 108, the city of Tulsa refuses to recognize the travesty that is the Tulsa Race Massacre.

I myself never even knew about the Massacre until I ended up getting to middle school. When I did learn about it, it was only for a brief moment. I had to learn from elders and leaders in our community what the Tulsa Race Massacre really was, and to me, I saw it as an opportunity for White people of the time to sabotage the great staple that was Black Wall Street.

I see it as a reminder that no matter how great things may be, someone who doesn’t look like you will always be looking for an opportunity to tear you down. I find it disgusting that we see it time and time again in our community. This has made it  common for me to look over my shoulder each time I accomplish something, and this should never be the case with someone that looks like me, but this fear ends with me.

From not teaching it in schools, to State Superintendent Ryan Walters saying that the Race Massacre “wasn’t about race”, it’s just another attempt of Tulsa trying to sweep this major event under the rug like they’ve done for nearly 100 years.

To add even more of a slap in the face to the community, Tulsa County Judge Caroline Wall “did not have the courtesy to issue an order explaining her reasons for inexplicably dismissing the case. That’s not how justice is supposed to work. The public is supposed to understand what she possibly had on her mind after she told us that we could go forward and then she changed her mind,” Attorney Michael Swartz, a co-counselor from New York, said.

judge caroline wall massacre survivors generational trauma
Left: Hughes Van Ellis, Viola Ford Fletcher, and Lessie Benningfield Randle | Courtesy of Nehemiah D. Frank Right: Tulsa County District Judge Caroline Wall (Campaign website)

Descendants and survivors vow to keep fighting

Judge Wall didn’t even alert the attorneys or the survivors about the decision. The attorneys found out through a reporter. For Judge Wall to commit this very unprofessional act–and in a way, minimizing this case–was very sad to see and makes me sympathize with our survivors who have fought all their lives to get the justice they deserve, despite the generational trauma.

“But the good news is: It’s not over,” said attorney Damario Solomons-Simmons. As he and his team, along with the survivors, plan to appeal the case dismissal.

Some people see generational trauma as a burden, but I see it as a goal. A goal to make it stop with my generation. This fight has been going on for too long and has taken a toll on people like me and other descendants. We’re tired, but not tired enough to lay down and quit. We will fight this battle until we get the justice our ancestors and the people of Greenwood deserve.

Tanner Frank is a 2023 summer intern for The Black Wall Street Times and a Tulsa, Oklahoma, native and a graduate of Booker T. Washington High Schoo. Tanner will be attending the University of Arkansas...