Black Tulsans are owed reparations for the 1921 Race Massacre and systemic economic and social oppression in the 99 years since, a panel of local and national advocates said Sunday evening during a YouTube conference.

“They want to talk about healing and reconciliation,” said local attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons. “You cannot have reconciliation without reparations, period.”

The speakers laid out their case for reparations over a 95-minute YouTube presentation that drew a peak of more than 760 viewers, according to the platform.

Solomon-Simmons and City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper discounted city government’s recent interest in the massacre and concerns about policing and economic development as little more than a publicity stunt.

“The same people who destroyed Greenwood, the same people who oppress black people in this city every single day are now trying to capitalize on the story of Greenwood,” said Solomon-Simmons.

“The only reason these efforts are taking place is because we’re approaching the centennial,” said Hall-Harper. “Tulsa will be on the worldwide stage.

“The penetrating question will be ‘What has changed?’ ... Tulsa doesn’t want to appear as the racist-ass city that it is,” she said.

Restitution or reparations for the events of May 31-June 1, 1921, during which 35 blocks of Tulsa’s Greenwood District were destroyed and an unknown number of people were killed, have been discussed since the massacre occurred.

The cause was renewed in the early 2000s with the filing of an unsuccessful federal lawsuit, and is again at the forefront because of the approaching massacre centennial.

Various forms of reparations have been proposed over the years, including direct payments to survivors and economic initiatives.

A 71-page report by the Human Rights Commission issued in conjunction with Sunday’s Zoom session includes a long list of recommendations, including direct payments to the handful of living massacre survivors, compensation to descendants of survivors and victims and suspension of state and federal statutes of limitation so that those parties could bring civil suits.

The report concludes that the city and state are liable for the massacre and for conditions in Tulsa’s near north side, and connects race massacre reparations to the national reparations movement.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat, last year filed legislation to create a federal commission on slavery and reparations.

The panel discussion was sponsored by several organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union Human Rights Watch, Ben & Jerry’s and the National African American Reparations Commission.

Panelists included Hall-Harper, state Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa, Tulsa attorney Demario Solomon-Simmons, Vernon AME Pastor Robert Turner, Human Rights Watch’s Nicole Austin-Hillary, author Julianne Malveaux and National African American Reparations Coalition’s Nkechi Taifa.


Tulsa Race Massacre: This is what happened in Tulsa in 1921

Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365

randy.krehbiel@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @rkrehbiel

Randy has been with the Tulsa World since 1979. He is a native of Hinton, Okla., and graduate of Oklahoma State University. Krehbiel primarily covers government and politics. Phone: 918-581-8365

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