A Brief Recap: Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commemoration

A century after the bombing of one of America’s most prosperous Black cities, all eyes are on Tulsa, Oklahoma. To commemorate the race massacre that leveled an entire neighborhood known as Black Wall Street to the ground, celebrities, politicians, and those eager to pay their respect, have flocked to the community where the atrocity took place.

The 100 year commemoration has been in the works for several years with stakeholders leading an aggressive campaign to not only draw people to the city for the multi-day event, but also learn of this once obscure piece of history. A Centennial Commission, composed of native Tulsans, descendants, politicians, and those with a passion to tell the city’s story, have been diligently spreading the word while organizing a worthwhile remembrance for the community and visitors.

Last Friday, activities kicked off with Legacy Fest Tulsa. On the campus of Oklahoma State University- Tulsa, once home to the Greenwood neighborhood, musical acts from Oklahoma and beyond took center stage for a robust lineup. PJ Morton and Pastor John P. Kee were among the several acts to hit the main stage. Outside of the OSU gates on Saturday, hundreds participated in a Second Amendment March for Reparations organized by the new Black Panther Party.  

The case for reparations has been made often in connection to this week’s centennial commemoration. Though the city of Tulsa, specifically its Black neighborhood, was rebuilt after the horrific bombing in 2021, and is now undergoing a revival, the survivors of the heinous attack, nor the descendents of the community have received a dime for the loss of wealth they were forced to incur. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tx), has said both privately and publicly, that the matter of reparations must be dealt with now.

During a luncheon on Saturday in downtown Tulsa, the Congresswoman told attendees that her push for reparations was not an attempt to damage or divide the country, but instead bring justice. 

“I’m not trying to hurt America. I’m trying to get them to do the unfinished business of cleaning up,” Jackson Lee said. “There’s no anger here — this is a plea.”

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Pleas to right the grave injustice that took place a century ago have been ringing out all across the city. In addition to public events, EBONY was invited to take part in a number of private gatherings with key changemakers looking to invest resources into the Greenwood neighborhood. The district, once seen as a mecca of sorts for Black entrepreneurs and forward-moving Black families, is witnessing considerable change thanks to a push by the city and local entrepreneurs to give the community a facelift. Though Greenwood has gone through many iterations since the 1921 bombing, the Black Tulsa community hopes that this current revival will bring more interest to the area.

President Joe Biden’s Tuesday visit will likely help with that. The former VP is expected to be on the ground in the Greenwood District to pay his respects to those who lost their lives and their livelihoods during one of the nation’s darkest acts of domestic terrorism.

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