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1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission Told To Stop Using Survivor's Name, Likeness

An attorney suing the City of Tulsa for reparations has told the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission to stop using the name of 106-year-old survivor Lessie Benningfield "Mother" Randle.

Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons sent the commission a cease-and-desist letter this week over a reference Project Director Phil Armstrong made to the 106-year-old Randle in a panel discussion late last month. Talking about the Greenwood Rising history center the commission is building in downtown Tulsa, Armstrong mentioned Randle by name and said the commission is "dedicating much of this work to their lives."

Solomon-Simmons said that creates the impression Randle supports their work.

"My family and I were shocked to hear that the commission is 'dedicating' much of their work to me since they have refused to meet with me, did not allow me an opportunity to participate in the Commission’s planning, and declined to enter discussions on how I, a living survivor of the massacre, feels about their activities around the centennial," Randle said in a statement.

"They want to leverage the rich history of the massacre while Mother Randle’s living in poverty. She’s never received any type of justice or compensation for the massacre, and she thinks that's wrong," Solomon-Simmons said.

Solomon-Simmons said there are steps the commission could take that would change that, including meeting with Randle, and using some of their $30 million in funding and Greenwood Rising museum revenue to support massacre survivors and their descendants.

"The centennial commission should strongly and forcefully endorse reparations and justice to Mother Randle and all descendants of those who suffered from the massacre," Solomon-Simmons said.

Armstrong and the commission did not respond to a request for comment.

The reparations lawsuit says through their actions during the Tulsa Race Massacre, the City of Tulsa and other defendants created a public nuisance of racial disparities, economic inequalities, insecurity and trauma that continues today.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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