Tulsa Race Riot: Progress is on money for people, not land
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Jan 20, 2002
1/20/13 at 8:15 AM
A reparations fund for survivors has begun, but a plan to buy a church for a memorial has stalled.
Plans for direct cash reparations to survivors of Tulsa's 1921 race riot are moving ahead, but plans for a race riot memorial seem to be bogging down.
The progress goes against what statewide polling has shown would be the most popular way to deal
with the riot's legacy but is in line with public sentiment that tax money not be used for reparations.
The outgoing chairman of the Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce, John Gaberino, said last week that a fund had been established
through the Tulsa Community Foundation with the hope of paying $5,000 to each of the 138 riot survivors who are still alive.
Tulsa Metropolitan Ministries had started a reparations fund with $20,000 from the Unitarian Universalist Association.
Neither fund would use tax money.
Tulsa Metropolitan Ministries says it hopes to begin disbursements within a few months.
This comes as the drive for a publicly funded memorial has slowed to a crawl.
Bob Blackburn, the executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society and a member of the
memorial design committee, said there was not much that can be done until a site is secured.
The design committee has recommended buying Vernon AME Church, 311 N. Greenwood Ave. A proposal by Mayor
Susan Savage for the city to spend $1.3 million on the property has run into strong opposition, however.
The state historical society is building a new museum in Oklahoma City, so Blackburn has considerable
experience in the design and construction of a facility like the proposed memorial. The society also holds
the purse strings for nearly $750,000 appropriated by the last Legislature for development of a riot memorial.
Blackburn said it would not be appropriate to spend that money to buy land for the memorial.
"I wasn't consulted about that, but for one thing ($750,000) isn't enough. And the appropriation really was for design, not property acquisition," he said.
Gaberino said the compensation fund grew out of task force meetings involving Chamber members and other community
leaders. He said the group hoped to raise $1.5 million, with almost $700,000 earmarked for survivor payments.
"We think this is a real opportunity to address a social issue that has divided this community for 80 years," he said.
The proposed payments -- $5,000 for each of the 138 remaining survivors identified by last October -- would fall far short of what some
reparations activists had hoped for. Gaberino said the amount was something "we hope is enough to say we're sorry for what happened."
Gaberino said he believed he has commitments from several large corporate sponsors.
A January 2000 Oklahoma Poll survey showed that only 12 percent of Oklahomans favored the use of tax money for reparations. Only 26 percent
favored reparations, even if no tax dollars were used, and 57 percent said reparations should not be paid no matter how they were funded.
Of those who favored reparations, the favored option was in the form of scholarships. Second was a memorial and the third choice was cash payments.
The Tulsa Race Riot Commission recommended, in order of importance, reparations that included payments to
living survivors and their descendants, a scholarship fund, an economic development zone and a memorial.
Randy Krehbiel, World staff writer, can be reached at 581-8365 or via e-mail at
Individual contributions can be made to the Tulsa Community Foundation at 7010 S. Yale Ave., Suite 110, Tulsa, OK 74136.
Contributions to the Tulsa Metropolitan Ministries fund can be sent to TMM, 221 S. Nogales Ave., Tulsa, OK 74127