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US Representative Sponsoring Reparations Commission Bill Voices Support For Tulsa Effort

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee's Office

The sponsor of a bill to create a federal commission studying reparations said she stands with those pursuing reparations for people affected by the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas said H.R.40 will also help the cause in Tulsa because the commission it establishes will look not only at slavery, but also state and local practices used to brutalize and disadvantage Black Americans.

"We've got to hear you. We've got to come to Oklahoma for a hearing, just like they came here. We've got to go to Mississippi for a hearing. We've got to Harlem for a hearing. And the idea is, you will then come and give the report to the government, because you've been injured by the government," Jackson Lee said.

Jackson Lee made those remarks Saturday at a panel discussion hosted by the Black Wall Street Legacy Festival, an event honoring Tulsa Race Massacre survivors and descendants.

The nonprofit Human Rights Watch issued a report last year on what comprehensive reparations in Tulsa should entail. Researcher Dreisen Heath said that includes hundreds of millions of dollars in financial compensation, and said opponents of even discussing reparations need to get over their discomfort.

"You know what's uncomfortable? When Tulsans were shot in their homes, shot in the streets, burned in their homes, their houses, their businesses — Black wealth. Black wealth, not white wealth built on Black bodies," Heath said.

Heath says any reparations plan must be developed in consultation with the entire community, and it will need to address not just disparities, but also things like trauma from Black Tulsans knowing they lost family members a century ago — some of whom could be lying in mass graves.

The report said reparations should also include investments in economic and educational opportunities.

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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