Torres and elected officials commemorate 100th anniversary of Tulsa massacre

Congressman Ritchie Torres speaks about the Tulsa Massacre
Photos by Jason Cohen

The Tulsa Race Massacre is a time in American history that is rarely spoken about nor taught in schools. But now, 100 years later, the act of terrorism is finally being discussed openly.

On May 31 and June 1, 1921, a mob of armed white men descended upon the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Okla., known nationally as ‘‘Black Wall Street” and one of the most prosperous Black communities in the United States in the early 20th century.

They launched what is now known as the ‘‘Tulsa Race Massacre,” causing the deaths of an estimated 300 Black residents, injuring more than over 800 people, destroying more than 1,200 homes and millions of dollars of wealth that went unrealized by future generations.

In recognition of the 100-year anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre, elected officials Congressman Ritchie Torres and Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson introduced legislation this week  to make June 1 ‘‘Black Wall Street Day’’ at the federal and city level.  This announcement was part of the ongoing national conversation around how to properly honor the victims of the massacre and bring justice to survivors.

“At the hands of a violent mob in less than 24 hours, the Black Wall Street, the most prosperous Black community at that time was reduced to rubble,” Torres said at a press conference. “For me, there is no greater injustice that you can do to a community than the destruction of intergenerational wealth.”

The congressman explained that this violent day has never been discussed because of the whitewashing of American history. It is only recently with the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin and so many others  have people begun to see what the Black community has endured.

Torres noted that the criminals who burned those businesses and displaced thousands were never held accountable. Now, the hope is this will be taught in schools and remembered every year on June 1.

“Even today with all of the media coverage most people are unaware that Black Wall Street was one of the most vibrant Black communities the country has ever seen,” he stated. “We owe it to our students to educate them about the totality of American history. If Black Wall Street had been left to succeed, then there may have been Black businesses today that may have been owned by the same Black families.”

Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson speaks about the Tulsa Massacre

Gibson shared her colleague’s sentiments and hopes the city council will pass the June 1 resolution soon. The councilwoman hopes events like Tulsa never repeat themselves.

“We know that we still have racism in America,” she commented. “It is alive and we see it every day. We must honor the lives of the 300 Tulsa residents who made the ultimate sacrifice through no fault of their own. They never got justice.”

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