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Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial's 'Remember and Rise' commemoration canceled

Remembering the Tulsa Race Massacre
Posted at 5:01 PM, May 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-28 23:37:15-04

TULSA, Okla. — The Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial's "Remember and Rise" commemoration has been canceled for Monday at ONEOK Field in downtown Tulsa.

The Centennial Commission released the following statement:

Due to unexpected circumstances with entertainers and speakers, the Centennial Commission is unable to fulfill our high expectations for Monday afternoon’s commemoration event and has determined not to move forward with the event at this time. We have hopes to reschedule later in this 100th commemorative year. We apologize for the disappointment and any inconvenience caused to ticket holders; if rescheduled ticket holders will be notified first.

Phil Armstrong, project director for the Centennial Commission, said they found out Wednesday the event would be canceled.

“We just had to come to a point where, realizing, wow, we’re not going to be able to move forward with our current plan of what we had intended,” Armstrong said.

When asked what were the “unexpected circumstances” from those scheduled to appear, like John Legend and Stacey Abrams, Armstrong didn’t elaborate much.

READ MORE: Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial

“Quite specifically, we can’t comment on Stacey Abrams's schedule and her calendar," he said. "We can’t comment on John Legend’s calendar and their schedule."

Mayor G.T. Bynum provided a statement after hearing the news.

“I was looking forward to attending the Remember & Rise event, and am saddened to learn of its cancellation," Bynum said. "But the work to honor our neighbors killed in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and to build a better city moving forward is bigger than one event on a single night. More than any disappointment over this cancelation, I feel profound gratitude for all the people working so hard to honor the lives lost and the work to be done.”

Armstrong agreed with Bynum's sentiment, saying the weekend is about the survivors and descendants of those in the massacre.

"The good side of this, it reminded us that, ‘hey, what are we doing this for? Are we doing it so we can say these two people came? Are we doing it to say the world, regardless of them being here, the world is stopping, literally, to commemorate with us.'”

While the Monday night event is canceled, Armstrong said that many other events are taking place leading up to the centennial.

The commission said it would still hold its ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Pathway to Hope at Greenwood and I-244 on Friday, May 28 at 5:21 p.m. It will also hold the candlelight vigil at Greenwood and Archer on Monday, May 31 at 10:30 p.m.

The commission will host a limited preview opening of Greenwood Rising History Center next week with the grand opening on Thursday, July 3.

“We are still here, and we’re still commemorating together," Armstrong said. "That’s the big story. That’s the thing that still puts a smile on my face. Just because this canceled, it didn’t cancel the commemoration.”

Senator Kevin Matthews, chair of the Centennial Commission, said the commission was approached recently by legal representatives of some of the survivors about paying them for their participation in the Remember and Rise event.

Matthews said a respected pastor brought the commission and lawyers together to come up with an agreement. He said on May 22, they agreed to provide $100,000 to each survivor and provide a seed gift of $2 million for a reparations coalition fund. He said they had raised the money in one week.

Matthews thought they had an agreement, but the next day he said the lawyers returned and increased that amount to $1 million for each survivor and $50 million in seed funding. He said they could not respond to those demands.

"To be clear, I absolutely want the survivors, the descendants, and others that were affected to be financially and emotionally supported," Matthews said. However, this is not the way."

The Centennial Commission said they hope to reschedule the event later in the 100th commemorative year. Ticket holders will be told when the event is rescheduled.

Damario Solomon-Simmons, the lawyer representing the survivors and managing partner of Solomon Simmons Law, released the following statement:

"News reports that the Commission canceled their big event because of “lawyer demands” is woefully inaccurate," Solomon-Simmons said. "After months of zero communication and under immense pressure that John Legend and Stacey Abrams may no longer participate if the survivors were not centered, a meeting was scheduled for Saturday. Immediately following that call, our legal team submitted a written list of seven requests to ensure the survivors participation with the Commission’s scheduled events. We revisited that list of requests on yet another Zoom call on Tuesday. The agreement was to have answers on each of the requests by COB. That didn’t happen."

He added, "There was never a non-negotiable demand for $50 Million dollars. The non-negotiable issues were that the fund would provide direct financial support to survivors and descendants, that the fund would be administered by descendants and community members, and the fund be held in a Black bank. The Justice for Greenwood Foundation, whose board includes descendants and community members, has already established a fund. Nevertheless, we were willing to explore details of the fund’s administration, so long as the fund continued to be overseen by a majority of descendants and community members.

He continued, "We have turned our attention to raising money for them ourselves and on our scheduled events. We have three remaining survivors. They will be heard. They will live with grace and dignity. The time for justice is now."

If you would like to donate to Justice for Greenwood, click here.

For more information about events in the upcoming weeks, click here.

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