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City Council Considering Resolution Apologizing For Tulsa Race Massacre

Matt Trotter

Tulsa City Councilors are set to consider a resolution Wednesday to apologize and commit to making tangible amends for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and for discriminatory policies that followed and caused further harm to north Tulsa.

That work includes setting up a process for the community to develop recommendations to aid reconciliation. 

"It’s about acknowledgement, truth-telling and moving forward. … This — I want to make it very clear — this is not reparations. It’s nowhere listed in the resolution. That language is not there. There’s a lot of work to be done to even approach that, but that’s not what this is," said Council Chair Vanessa Hall-Harper, whose district encompasses most of historical Greenwood.

Hall-Harper said the council received a copy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Commission’s report on the massacre 20 years ago and never took any kind of action on it.

Hall-Harper told her colleagues during an afternoon committee meeting she’s gotten some feedback critical of a portion of the resolution that mentions what the city has done to address inequalities stemming from the massacre.

"When you apologize, you don’t turn right back around and say, 'Well, we’ve done this stuff.' It sounds as if — from what I’m told and after reading it, I certainly agree — that it’s more of making an excuse," Hall-Harper said.

Councilor Lori Decter Wright said the world’s eyes are on Tulsa coming off the massacre centennial.

"They’re looking to us to acknowledge and apologize, but also really set an example of how we can do this work together as a community," Decter Wright said.

In-person public comment will be allowed during the 5 p.m. meeting at city hall. The meeting can be watched live on the council's Facebook page, tgovonline.org or channel 24 on Cox cable.

Mayor G.T. Bynum issued a statement Monday, 100 years to the day after the massacre started, apologizing on behalf of the city. Adjutant Gen. Michael Thompson, who commands the Oklahoma National Guard, apologized for the guard's role in the massacre Monday at an event attended by two of the three known living survivors.

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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