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Remaining survivors of Tulsa Race Massacre make case for reparations before State Supreme Court

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — The last two remaining survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre went before the Oklahoma State Supreme Court on Tuesday to make their case for reparations.

The last two survivors, Mother Lessie Benningfield Randle and Mother Viola Ford Fletcher are both 109 years old.

The survivors said when it comes to reparations, they really don’t want money.

“Time is of the essence for these two 109-year-old survivors who are here with us today,” said Demario Solomon-Simmons, an attorney representing the survivors.

The survivor’s legal team said this is a crucial moment, Randle and Fletcher were both in court for the arguments.

They’re suing the City of Tulsa and others for reparations saying the massacre violated public nuisance laws. They also said Greenwood is still blighted and that needs to be corrected, which is the nuisance.

The case is asking, not for repatriations in money, but reparations over property claiming there are over 1,500 properties that were and still are affected by the massacre and that those need to be given back to the community.

“The defendants destroyed over 1,500 pieces of property and we allege that many of those properties are still uninhabitable, still blighted, still destroyed or that the defendants still own the property that they acquired because of the massacre,” Solomon-Simmons said.

The State Supreme Court won’t decide if those reparations will be paid, but to decide if a trial seeking reparations from the City of Tulsa can go forward after a district judge dismissed the suit in July 2023.

“Appellate simply failed to argue that there was any special injury to them beyond those sustained who were present for the 1921 Race Massacre or as this court observed, but others who came later who may be affected by the economic disparities that may have followed the massacre,” said John Tucker, attorney for the Tulsa Regional Chamber.

A watch party was held at the Black Wall Street Liquid Lounge in Greenwood. Kode Ransom is the co-owner and said he wanted to make sure the survivors know they have support on Greenwood.

“It’s monumental, it’s historic,” said Ransom. “Both of the survivors being 109 it’s imperative that you get it done as quickly as possible which has been said for over 10 years now.”

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