May 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Tulsa Massacre Memorial Day event canceled abruptly

People looking at a memorial in the Greenwood district in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on May 28.
A memorial in the Greenwood district in Tulsa, Okla., on May 28. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

The abrupt cancellation of a Memorial Day event to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre continues to reverberate with disputed details about the decision, CBS News reports.

Why it matters: The “Remember and Rise” event, which was to feature a performance from John Legend and a speech by Stacey Abrams, fell apart over a disagreement about using a portion of the money fundraised as reparations for survivors of the massacre.

Details: The event was organized by the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, which was founded and is chaired by Oklahoma state Sen. Kevin Matthews (D).

  • The mostly Black commission is dedicated to commemorating the event and is comprised of elected officials, philanthropists, education representatives and community members.
  • In total, the commission raised $30 million for a new history museum at the site of the massacre and a cultural center and art projects around Greenwood — a Tulsa neighborhood that was known at the time of massacre as the "Black Wall Street."
  • A portion of the money was also set aside for “Remember and Rise," which was supposed to take place at the city’s minor league baseball stadium and would have been a primary attraction on Memorial Day, according to the New York Times.

Lawyers representing the three known survivors of the massacre in a lawsuit against the city of Tulsa and Oklahoma argued money from the commission should be used as reparations for the survivors.

  • Negotiations between the lawyers and the commission broke down last week and Abrams and Legend pulled out, according to the Times.
  • Matthews said Friday that the lawyers first requested $100,000 each and a $2 million donation toward a reparations fund. But after agreeing to the terms, Matthews, contends, he received an email last Sunday that requested $1 million for each survivor and $50 million for the fund. CBS News published a copy of the correspondence from attorney Demario Solomon-Simmons.
  • Matthews and Solomon-Simmons continue to dispute details of the behind-the-scenes negotiations.

What's next: The White House announced last week that President Biden would travel to Tulsa this Tuesday to commemorate the massacre.

Go deeper: 100 years after Tulsa Race Massacre, last living survivors urge U.S. to not forget

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