The Remember & Rise event was scheduled for Tulsa los lunes, a holiday observed across the US as Memorial Day. The musician John Legend was slated to perform and the politician and voting rights campaigner Stacey Abrams was to deliver a keynote speech. But negotiations over the survivors’ attendance broke down.
Damario Solomon-Simmons, an attorney who represents the survivors and their descendants in civil litigation against the city of Tulsa, said he provided a list of requests to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission.
“After months of zero communication and under immense pressure that John Legend and Stacey Abrams may no longer participate if the survivors were not centered, a meeting was scheduled for [last] Saturday,” Solomon-Simmons told the Associated Press.
“Immediately following that call, our legal team submitted a list of seven requests to ensure the survivors’ participation with the commission’s scheduled events. The agreement was to have answers on each of the requests by [last Tuesday]. That didn’t happen.”
The lawsuit in which Solomon-Simmons is engaged seeks reparations for the razing of Greenwood, a once-flourishing neighborhood which was known as “Black Wall Street” due to its prosperity.
En 31 Mayo 1921, Greenwood was attacked by a white mob. As many as 300 people died. “Black Wall Street” was burned and destroyed.
The terrible events in Tulsa drew renewed attention last year, amid national protests over police brutality and systemic racism following the murder of George Floyd, an African American man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis.
Oklahoma state senator Kevin Matthews, who chairs the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, said that after meeting Solomon-Simmons and other survivors’ representatives, the commission agreed to distribute $100,000 to each survivor and to provide $2m for a reparations fund.
“We raised the money and we were excited the survivors were going to accept these gifts,” Matthews told the AP. “Unfortunately, [last] Sunday they reached out and increased the amount of the $100,000-per-survivor gifts to $1m, and instead of $2m [for the fund], they asked for $50m – $50m – in seed money.
“We could not respond to those demands. To be clear, I absolutely want the survivors, the descendants and others that were affected to be financially and emotionally supported. sin embargo, this is not the way.”
Solomon-Simmons told the AP the request for $50m was not meant to be non-negotiable.
Matthews said the commission had raised more than $30m, including $20m for building the Greenwood Rising museum, in the past five years. Other funds would help renovations to the Greenwood Cultural Center, commemoration activities and art projects, él dijo.
Some Black residents in Tulsa have questioned whether money for the museum, which is in an increasingly gentrified part of the city, should have gone instead to descendants of those killed in the massacre, or African Americans now living near Greenwood.
Two groups have scheduled separate events to mark the centenary of the massacre. Besides the the 1921 Tulsa Raza Massacre Centennial Commission, the Black Wall Street Legacy Festival has planned a slate of events which will proceed as scheduled.