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Monument Marks Tulsa Race Riot Of 1921

The Black Wall Street Massacre memorial is shown in Tulsa, Oklahoma. | Source: Win McNamee / Getty

Just days ahead of a widely promoted commemorative event surrounding the Tulsa Race Massacre‘s 100-year anniversary, the Tulsa Race Commission announced the cancellation of its “Rise and Remember” centennial celebration. Local news reported the commission provided little explanation for the cancellation, citing unexpected circumstances in fulfilling the commission’s “high expectations” for the commemorative event.

Scheduled for this coming Monday evening, “Rise and Remember” was billed as a nationally televised star-studded event with big names like John Legend and Stacey Abrams. Legend’s participation was still being promoted as recently as Wednesday. Actor Hill Harper was reported as the event’s emcee.

The cancellation also comes after the Department of Homeland Security warned commemorative events could be a target for white supremacist groups. DHS did not provide specific threats or warnings.

But Kristi Williams, chair of the Greater Tulsa African-American Affairs Commission, said the commission has little to do with Tulsa’s Black community, and descendants and survivors will continue as planned. Williams told Joy Reid Thursday evening that descendants and survivors are supporting the Black Wall Street Legacy Fest.

“The community is supporting the Legacy Fest,” Williams said during the panel discussion. “We haven’t been connected with the centennial commission and its efforts.”

Tiffany Cross, the host of the Cross Connection, said aside from a potential security threat, people were asking questions about the commission.

“Outside of the homeland security threat, there was a lot of concern around how this commission was coming together, and so people who have contributed money to this commission started asking questions,” Cross explained.

Cross said people invited to take part in the commemorative events also began asking questions. 

The Black Wall Street Times reported that Human Rights Watch criticized the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Commission for raising millions of dollars without a plan to compensate survivors and descendants. A 1997 commission created to study the massacre included direct reparations payments as among recommendations for addressing the long-term harm caused by the massacre. 

According to the outlet, all three living survivors sued the city last year, accusing officials of using the commission to enrich white-owned businesses or organizations and exploiting the massacre for tourism. The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Commission has raised $30 million, of which $0 has been allocated to benefit survivors and descendants directly. 

The Black Wall Street Legacy Festival starts Friday and runs through Juneteenth. From its website, the Legacy Fest is a community-led series centering on survivors and descendants. All three descendants, including Hughes Van Ellis, who was a baby at the time, are headlining the event. 

A part of the Legacy Fest, an interactive installation, the “Legacy of Survival” opens Friday and will continue through Sunday, July 4. A partnership between the Terrence Crutcher Foundation, the Gilcrease Museum and StoryFile, the exhibit contains interactive conservational videos of Randle and Viola “Mother Fletcher. The installation will also include pop-up sites around Tulsa that allow people to interact with digital versions of Fletcher and Randle wherever they are. 

 “Every day that we have with the survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre is a treasured gift,” said Tiffany Crutcher, Founder and Executive Director of the Terrence Crutcher Foundation and Lead Organizer of the Black Wall Street Legacy Festival, in a statement. “Mother Fletcher and Mother Randle have so much wisdom, grit, and grace to teach all of us, and I couldn’t be more relieved that we can preserve their voices, stories, and legacies for future generations.”


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Part of Greenwood District burned in Race Riots, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA, June 1921
40 photos