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Report recommends Tulsa establish committee to consider reparations

The University of Tulsa

Following community input in 2023, a report recommends Tulsa consider several kinds of reparations for the 1921 Race Massacre.

The Beyond Apology report recommends the city “establish a government sanctioned task-force or commission to establish and implement the terms of a reparations program.”

Based on feedback from 83 participants through several “listening sessions” last year, the report says residents especially want the city to take action through education, direct financial compensation and economic development. Black home ownership and public health are also listed in the recommendations.

The recommendations are in response to the massacre, in which a white mob is estimated to have killed up to 300 Tulsans in the neighborhood known as Black Wall Street.

Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper, a listed expert in the report who represents the region of Tulsa where the massacre took place, appreciated the recommendation to form a task force.

"There are many, many cities — 75 or more — throughout the United States that have done similar work, whether it’s been a community task force, or a governmental task force, or even a statewide task force," said Hall-Harper. "Different Communities are doing it differently, and I think our next step should be 'What does this look like for Tulsa? What does this look like for Oklahoma?'"

She also said city leaders should consider how they can engage the community in a way that isn’t solely controlled by power structures.

"If everybody comes to the table in an open process and a mindset of what’s fair and what’s just, then I think we can really set the tone for a nation," she said.

The survey was conducted by Standpipe Hill Strategies, which is run by Greg Robinson, a member of the committee that oversees the city's search for mass graves in connection with the massacre.

The recommendation to create the committee comes more than two years after the city formally apologized for its role in the massacre. The resolution called for discussions about whether and how reparations should be given to descendants.

The city is currently fighting litigation from the two living massacre survivors accusing the massacre of creating a public nuisance. If lost, the city would likely be requested to pay millions of dollars in reparations to the survivors.

While Mayor G.T. Bynum has opposed cash reparations for the survivors, he has supported the resolution.

The Beyond Apology report will be given to city council on Feb. 7.

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

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