Hughes Van Ellis, Mother Lessie Benningfield Randle and Mother Viola Fletcher, the three remaining survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Photo courtesy KGO.

Mother Viola Fletcher, Mother Lessie Benningfield Randle and Hughes Van Ellis, survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, will be gifted $100,000 each from the Justice for Greenwood Foundation on the heels of the 100-year commemoration.

The oldest living survivor of the Tulsa race massacre Viola Fletcher (white hair) and her brother Hughes Van Ellis to her right listen as President Joe Biden speaks to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre, at the Greenwood Cultural Center, Tuesday, June 1, 2021, in Tulsa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

“This gift for the survivors of the Tulsa massacre shows that we have the power to demand justice for Black communities in Tulsa and all across the country,” said Damario Solomon Simmons, founder and executive director of Justice For Greenwood Foundation.

Mother Viola Fletcher (undated). Photo courtesy of Ike Howard.

The recent generosity is surprising to many as it comes after decades of communities calling for justice, reparations and proper acknowledgment in response to the Tulsa Race Massacre where angry white mobs murdered and terrorized hundreds of Black people and destroyed Greenwood’s thriving Black Wall Street.

During the 107-year-old Fletcher’s testimony in Washington, D.C., she said she can never forget the history known as the Tulsa Race Massacre. 

“I still see Black men being shot, Black bodies lying in the street, I still smell smoke and see fire,” Fletcher testified. “I still see Black businesses being burned. I still hear airplanes flying overhead. I hear the screams. I have lived through the massacre every day.”

Fletcher continued, “We live this history and we can’t ignore it. We lost everything that day, our homes, our churches, our newspapers, our theaters, our lives.”

“We were left with nothing,” shared Van Ellis, Fletcher’s younger brother by seven years. “We were made refugees in our own country.”

The survivors shared how they lived most of their lives in poverty and amplified their calls for justice throughout the years.

This postcard provided by the Department of Special Collections, McFarlin Library, The University of Tulsa shows fires burning during the Tulsa Race Massacre in Tulsa, Okla. on June 1, 1921. (Department of Special Collections, McFarlin Library, The University of Tulsa via AP)

Justice for Greenwood Foundation supporters, Color Of Change members and fundraising efforts nationwide contributed to the gifts awarded to the survivors. 

Organizers call the move “an important step in the long overdue path toward justice and an act of resistance to the city’s continued efforts to erase Greenwood’s Black community and history,” while acknowledging that there’s still a lot of work to do. They hope it can provide some alleviation for the victims.

“We are immensely proud to play our role in rectifying these injustices,” Solomon Simmons said. “Nothing can undo the immense pain inflicted upon the remaining survivors of the massacre, but alleviating their current financial burdens inflicted not only by the massacre itself but subsequent systemic racism is the least we could do for them as we continue to push for reparations. Now, we must work to ensure their stories are told, confronting our past and learning from it, to ensure we actively challenge enduring injustices.”

-theGrio