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Sen. Matthews: 'No Politicians' Involved In What Comes After Race Massacre Centennial Commission

The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission has made a lot of headlines recently.

The commission's relationship with Gov. Kevin Stitt came to a head at the end of last week. The commission removed Stitt as a member after he declined to address them in the wake of signing a bill dictating how race-related concepts are taught in schools.

The commission had urged Stitt to veto the bill, calling it "diametrically opposed" to their mission. Stitt’s office described his role on the commission as "purely ceremonial."

Democratic Rep. Monroe Nichols, who is Black and represents north Tulsa, resigned from the commission in the middle of that situation, saying the governor had "cast a shadow" over five years of good work.

State Sen. Kevin Matthews (D-Tulsa), who spearheaded the centennial commission, recently took to Facebook to talk about its formation and its future, and he reminded everyone it will sunset soon after the Greenwood Rising history center opens. 

"We’re going to have this grand opening, and there’s going to be a board from the community that will be the Greenwood Rising board, just like the Greenwood Cultural Center board, just like the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation board, the Greenwood Chamber board and others. And I won’t be on it. No politicians will be on it," Matthews said in the video, recorded from a restaurant in the historic all-Black town of Boley.

The situation with stitt also brought back into focus questions about the makeup of the commission, which in addition to Stitt includes Republican U.S. Sen. James Lankford and Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum.

The commission kept Lankford on as a member after he had planned to object to the results of a free and fair election that former President Donald Trump lost. Trump falsely claimed widespread fraud cost him the election, and a mob of extremists emboldened by those claims invaded the U.S. Capitol before Lankford could object.

Lankford later apologized for offending Black constituents, saying he did not realize his actions came across as trying to disenfranchise predominately Black communities.

Bynum has said reparations for race massacre survivors and their descendants would divide the city.

Matthews also spoke to the commission's membership in his video.

"I can only deal with who’s there. I’m a Democrat. The legislature is majority Republican — supermajority. All of our U.S. congressmen, U.S. senators are Republican. So, the only thing I could do is just stay at home and do nothing, or I have to work with who’s there," Matthews said.

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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