TULSA, Okla. — As Tulsa approaches the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre, the lawyer who sued the City of Tulsa is seeking reparations for victims and descendants of the event held a Zoom lecture Wednesday to explain why he's fighting for reparations.
There are several developments taking place in the heart of the Greenwood District, among them Greenwood Rising Museum, which is being built to honor the memory of hundreds of Black Tulsans killed in the 1921 race massacre.
However, for some Tulsans, the museum and redevelopment of the Greenwood District is not enough to repair the damage caused by the tragedy.
“The form that reparations take in Tulsa, I think first of all there needs to be an accounting of the families that were destroyed, the town that was destroyed,” said Raymond Winbush, director and research professor at Morgan State University. He is an author and professor who has studied the issue of reparations.
The massacre not only claimed lives, but also destroyed businesses and an entire community. It caused deep wounds. Nearly 100 years later, many are seeking healing through reparations.
“The descendants of those people that were massacred are owed something particularly the business people, they’re all owed something,” Winbush said.
Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons agrees with Winbush. Last September, he filed a lawsuit against the City of Tulsa for reparations for victims and descendants of the massacre.
“We feel so strongly about our lawsuit that we should be successful, but it’s a shame that we had to bring it to a lawsuit because everyone knows what happened in greenwood was murder — what happened in Greenwood was an injustice that’s why we filed this lawsuit,” he said in a webinar addressing the topic of reparations.
In the webinar, Solomon-Simmons was critical of Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum for not supporting the reparations that would provide a form of compensation to descendants of those impacted by the massacre.
GALLERY: Tulsa's Historic Greenwood District
The City does not comment on pending litigation, but its chief of economic development told 2 Works for You they are being very intentional about the inclusion of key stakeholders in the redevelopment of the Greenwood District.
“As we think of this new phase of development in Greenwood, and particularly as we think of redevelopment projects that the city is involved in, we are committed to ensure that those projects and those processes create the space and the opportunity in a very deliberate fashion for black business owners and black contractors, and really thinking through how do we ensure that we’re responding to this lack of opportunity or a desire to participate directly,” said Kian Kamas, chief of economic development for the City of Tulsa.
The relief the lawsuit asks for includes monetary compensation and an admission from the defendants that they crated a "public nuisance." The suit also seeks to prohibit the defendants from profiting off of the museum. Instead, the plaintiffs want the money to go to a victims compensation fund.
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