Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission official explains sudden cancelation of Remember & Rise event

Tulsa Race Massacre
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TULSA, Okla. (KFOR) – The highly-anticipated Remember & Rise event was canceled after the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission could not fulfill increasing financial demands from three living survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, according to the Centennial Commission’s chairman.

State Sen. Kevin Matthews, chairman of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, spoke Friday about the sudden cancelation of Remember & Rise, a ceremony previously scheduled for Monday to honor the thousands of victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Remember and Rise’s cancelation on Thursday came as a shock to many.

It was to be one of several solemn events in which Oklahomans and out-of-state visitors gathered to remember and honor the hundreds of lives lost and the community destroyed during one of the deadliest racial attacks in United States history.

The event was to be held at ONEOK Field in the Greenwood District on the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, which occurred over an 18-hour period from May 31 to June 1, 1921. Prominent politician Stacey Abrams was to be the event’s keynote speaker and music superstar John Legend was set to perform.

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Future site of Greenwood Rising: The Black Wall Street History Center

Matthews said the ceremony was canceled because the financial gift requested by three Tulsa Race Massacre survivors could not be met.

The Centennial Commission was initially approached by legal representatives of the three living survivors, who asked that the survivors be included in Remember & Rise events, according to Matthews.

“They asked us to provide a financial gift for them in return,” Matthews said.

Donors to the Commission had previously offered to make financial gifts to survivors of the massacre, so, Commission members did not feel uncomfortable discussing financial gifts for survivors, according to Matthews.

The Rev. Ray Horn, a respected, impartial pastor, held a meeting, bringing the Commission and survivors together on Saturday, May 22. The meeting ended well with an agreement that the Commission would raise $100,000 per survivor and provide a seed gift of $2 million for a Reparation Coalition Fund, Matthews said.

“The deadline for that fund and that fundraising was one week, and we did it,” he said.

However, the following day, the survivors asked that that they be given $1 million each instead of the previously agreed upon $100,000 amount and that the seed gift to the Reparation Coalition Fund be raised from $2 million to $50 million, according to Matthews.

“We could not respond to those demands,” he said. “So, to be clear, I absolutely want the survivors, the descendants and others that were affected to be financially and emotionally supported. However, this is not the way, no matter how hard we try.”

While the cancelation of Remember & Rise is a blow to both the Commission members who organized it and the community members who anticipated it, several others events will be held during the centennial period to memorialize the many lives lost during the massacre. At the bottom of this story is a full list of events happening this weekend, next week and throughout the rest of June.

President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit the Greenwood District on Tuesday.

The Tulsa Race Massacre began after a young Black teenager named Dick Rowland was accused of sexually assaulting a young white woman named Sarah Page.

In this 1921 image provided by the Library of Congress, smoke billows over Tulsa, Okla. For decades, when it was discussed at all, the killing of hundreds of people in a prosperous black business district in 1921 was referred to as the Tulsa race riot. Under new standards developed by teachers for approaching the topic, students are encouraged to consider the differences between labeling it a “massacre” instead of a “riot,” as it is still commemorated in state laws. (Alvin C. Krupnick Co./Library of Congress via AP)
In this 1921 image provided by the Library of Congress, smoke billows over Tulsa, Okla. For decades, when it was discussed at all, the killing of hundreds of people in a prosperous black business district in 1921 was referred to as the Tulsa Race Massacre. Under new standards developed by teachers for approaching the topic, students are encouraged to consider the differences between labeling it a “massacre” instead of a “riot,” as it is still commemorated in state laws. (Alvin C. Krupnick Co./Library of Congress via AP)

A white mob laid siege to Tulsa’s Greenwood District, a prosperous Black community referred to as Black Wall Street. The mob killed and wounded scores of Black community members and looted and set fire to homes and businesses.

The 35-block district that had boomed with hundreds of thriving black businesses was reduced to charred ruins. Amid the destruction, hundreds of Black residents were killed and 800 others injured.

Tulsa Race Massacre
Tulsa Race Massacre. Courtesy: Oklahoma Historical Society

The 18 hours of unfathomable horror became mostly forgotten, and the Greenwood District, a shining beacon of Black prosperity and emergence during a time of immense racial suppression, never fully recovered.

Historians believe as many as 300 people were killed in the massacre.

Page later recanted her claim that Rowland assaulted her.

The Centennial Commission strives to honor those lives lost and ensure the mass atrocity that occurred in Greenwood 100 years ago is never forgotten.

Matthews said that while financial gift amounts for both living survivors and the Reparation Coalition Fund could not be determined this past week, Centennial Commission members hope to make a financial gift happen.

“We do have the funds raised, and if the legal team doesn’t bar us from it again, we will be providing those funds directly to the survivors,” Matthews said.

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A tribute to Black Wall Street.

The following is a schedule of Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial events provided to KFOR by KTUL in Tulsa:

Friday, May 28

Friday, May 28 – Sunday, May 31

Saturday, May 29

Sunday, May 30

Monday, May 31

Tuesday, June 1

Wednesday, June 2

Thursday, June 3 – Sunday, June 13

Friday, June 4 – Saturday, June 26

Sunday, June 6

Saturday, June 12

Saturday, June 12 – Monday, June 14

Friday, June 18

Saturday, June 19

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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