May 31, 2021

Memorial Day is an American holiday observed on the last Monday of May honoring the men and women who died while serving in the US military to remember their service.  This was originally known as Decoration Day and originated in the years following the Civil War.  It became a federal holiday in 1971.  While the day has officially been set aside to honor veterans, many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials to also remember family members.  This day unofficially marks the beginning of the summer season.  With the opening of most events this will be welcomed by many.

While established events are reopening the Remember and Rise event in Tulsa, Oklahoma has been canceled.  This year’s Memorial Day falls on the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre (May 31-June 1, 1921).  Remember and Rise was scheduled to feature a performance from John Legend and a speech by Stacey Abrams.  The event was organized by the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission (TRMCC), which was founded and is chaired by Oklahoma state Sen. Kevin Matthews (D).  The mostly Black commission is dedicated to commemorating the event and raised $30 million for a new history museum at the site of the massacre and a cultural center and art projects around the neighborhood of Greenwood.  At the time of the massacre this was known as the “Black Wall Street.”

The TRMCC said it was canceling the Remember and Rise event on Monday “due to unexpected circumstances with entertainers and speakers, the Centennial Commission is unable to fulfill our high expectations for Monday afternoon’s commemoration event and has determined not to move forward with the event.”  The event fell apart over disagreement on using a portion of the money raised as reparations for massacre survivors.  Lawyers representing the three known survivors in a lawsuit argued money from the commission should be used as reparations for the survivors.  Last Friday the lawyers requested $100,000 each and a $2 million donation toward a reparations fund.  After agreeing to the terms, the commission was informed Sunday the stakes had been raised to $1 million for each survivor and $50 million for the fund.  It seems to remember has a price.

Thoughts:  While the official centennial event will not happen, other actions will.  The president has agreed in a separate effort to remember the massacre by visiting Tulsa on Tuesday.  I found a footnote at the bottom of the online article concerning the dispute over reparations.  “Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions.  In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting.”  This appears to be another way to say the issue is too controversial so we are not going to open this can of worms.  History is generally written by the victors, or at least the survivors.  The history we remember is always biased and sometimes painful.  If we do not remember, both the good and the bad, we are doomed to repeat the past.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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