*Hundreds gathered outside the historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood on Monday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
The Rev. Robert Turner, who serves as pastor of the church, dedicated a prayer wall to the victims.
“This is the largest crime scene in America that has never been investigated,” he said.
As reported by the Houston Chronicle, among those who spoke at the outdoor ceremony were Democratic U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee of California, and Lisa Brunt Rochester and U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, both from Delaware.
“We’re here to remember, to mourn, to rebuild equitably,” Rochester said.
“Whatever happens needs to be a community-driven effort,” Mayor G.T. Bynum said about the future of Greenwood. “It’s incredibly important to us that whatever we end up seeing happen here, that the community has pride in it, just like the community had pride in Black Wall Street.”
According to the report, there were plaques on the sidewalk which listed the Black-owned buildings and businesses that were destroyed during the 1921 massacre and whether they were ever rebuilt.
“We like to think about the soil, the land, as one of the only really tangible reminders of what has happened,” said Kiara Boone, deputy director of community education at the Equal Justice Initiative. “The terrain of Tulsa has changed in 100 years, but the resilience, the power, the love of this community has remained consistent.”
On May 31 and June 1, 1921, angry white supremacists destroyed the Black community of Greenwood in Tulsa, killing as many as 300 people, destroying more than 1,000 homes and burning Black businesses. An estimated 8,000 people were left homeless and the victims were never compensated. The incident was hidden from history for decades but is now recognized as the single worst episode of racial violence in the United States.
The murdered were buried in mass graves and millions of dollars worth of Black-owned property was burned to the ground. No government agencies protected Black residents during the massacre and no rioters were prosecuted for crimes committed.
President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit Tulsa on Tuesday and will meet with survivors as well as tour the Greenwood Cultural Center. Biden will reportedly announce new policies to combat the racial wealth gap, according to the report.
The president recently signed a presidential proclamation, declaring Monday (May 31) a “Day of Remembrance: 100 Years After the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre” and called on Americans “to reflect on the deep roots of racial terror in our nation and recommit to the work of rooting out systemic racism across our country.”
“As a descendent, my family only had 56 years to build our wealth, from 1865-1921,” Nehemiah Frank says about Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum’s comments against reparations.
“His family had from 1619 or 1666, when we have confirmed slave involvement in his family, all the way to 1865.” pic.twitter.com/ADH1Efie9f
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) May 29, 2021
Per ABC News, in May, three survivors of the massacre called on lawmakers for reparations.
“I still see Black men being shot, Black bodies lying in the street,” said Viola Fletcher, 107, to a House Judiciary subcommittee. “I still smell smoke and see fire. I still see Black businesses being burned. I still hear airplanes flying overhead. I hear the screams. I have lived through the massacre every day. Our country may forget this history, but I cannot. I will not, and other survivors do not. And our descendants do not.”
It is unlikely that Biden will support reparations for Black Tulsa massacre descendants.
“The president has said, both before he became president and now that he is president, that he supports a study of reparations and he thinks it’s crucial to do that work on an issue as consequential as this one,” said a senior White House official. “He also knows that we don’t need a formal study on reparations to get to work right now and roll up our sleeves to address systemic racism and invest in Black communities like Greenwood, and he’s starting that process now.”