TULSA, Okla. — The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission announced Monday that Oklahoma Republican Senator James Lankford is staying on as a commission member.
This comes after the controversy surrounding Sen. Lankford's attempts to challenge the 2020 presidential election results.
Earlier in January, Lankford apologized in a letter to Black Tulsans for not realizing contesting the Electoral College results in swing states would be seen as questioning Black voters' legitimacy.
In a letter addressed to “My friends in North Tulsa,” Lankford said it was never his intention to disenfranchise any voter or state. The senator acknowledged his actions raised concerns among Black Oklahomans.
The commission met over the weekend to further discuss and draft a formal response regarding Lankford's apology letter. Ultimately, it decided that Lankford would remain on the commission.
We issue this statement in response to questions about the status of Centennial Commission member Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) following the January 6 Capitol insurrection and objections to the certification of electoral votes.
At the request of Senator Lankford, the Centennial Commission afforded him the opportunity to hear directly from its members and share his perspective on these events. The Centennial Commission then decided on a two-week period for members to reflect on the matter before reconvening and airing final thoughts.
At its core, the Centennial Commission is about reconciliation. For the purpose of achieving that goal, we must continue to harness our connective tissue – even when we are not in absolute agreement. Senator Lankford, despite clear differences (some of them profound), stands on common ground with us in terms of the importance of reconciliation as well as educating all United States citizens about Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District, the storied “Black Wall Street,” including the massacre and its impact on Oklahoma and the nation.
The Centennial Commission believes deeply in racial reconciliation and inter-generational healing. To that end, we must continue to extend an olive branch. It is our inherent duty to show our partners the way.
For those reasons, we choose not to request Senator Lankford’s removal from the Centennial Commission, but instead, accept his apology and embrace his desire to reaffirm his commitment to helping bring vital resources and opportunities to the Greenwood District, Black Tulsans, and Black Americans from coast to coast.
Together, with the Senator’s help, we will:
- Integrate the story of Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District into curricula and state-mandated testing in Oklahoma;
- Pass a statewide bill to facilitate field trips for Oklahoma students to Greenwood Rising and the surrounding historic community;
- Make Oklahoma an official part of the United States Civil Rights Trail, with specific stops in some of the all-Black towns;
- Secure for the Greenwood District a spot on the National Register of Historic Places;
- Tell the story of, and advocate for, the Greenwood District on the national stage, especially within political spaces; and
- Build bipartisan support for Greenwood Rising and the other initiatives of the Centennial Commission.
When it comes to differing opinions, it is through mutual understanding, open dialogue, action, and continued learning that we can achieve true reconciliation. This is the ethos of unity embraced by the Centennial Commission. For that reason, we must continue working together, despite missteps.
Please understand that the Centennial Commission did not come to this decision easily, and it was not made without hearing from the community.
We considered the repercussions it carries. We understood at the outset that it would not be unanimous. Instead, we sought consensus—a well-reasoned decision that all members of the Centennial Commission could support.
We stand committed in our resolve to honor the legacy of Black Wall Street, challenge bias, and seek healing.
1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission
For more information about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, click here.
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