TULSA, Okla. (NewsNation Now) — The commission formed to observe the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre announced Friday that it had booted Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt from his seat on the panel days after he signed a bill outlawing the teaching of some race and racism concepts in public schools.
“Elected officials, nor representatives of elected officials, were involved in this decision. While the Commission is disheartened to part ways with Governor Stitt, we are thankful for the things accomplished together,” a Centennial Commission statement said. “The Commission remains focused on lifting up the story of Black Wall Street and commemorating the Centennial.”
A Tulsa World article on Stitt’s removal from the Centennial Commission included the following statement from Stitt’s office:
“It is disappointing to see an organization of such importance spend so much effort to sow division based on falsehoods and political rhetoric two weeks before the centennial and a month before the commission is scheduled to sunset.
The governor and first lady will continue to support the revitalization of the Greenwood District, honest conversations about racial reconciliation and pathways of hope in Oklahoma.”GOV. KEVIN STITT’S OFFICE
C.J. Webber-Neal, the President of the Greenwood Arts & Cultural Society, Inc., approves of the Centennial Commission ending Stitt’s honorary membership. Webber-Neal issued the following statement:
“The Greenwood Arts & Cultural Society, INC. is very pleased that the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission has with one concise voice taken action to remove Kevin Stitt, Governor of Oklahoma, from it board.
Based upon the stated mission of this body, we stand in solidarity with their action regarding Governor Stitt’s role as a member of this Commission, based upon his signing of HB 1775 into law. The truth of the horrific story of 1921’s Race Massacre (as well as other history of the experiences of minorities in America) must be taught honestly and unequivocally, so that future generations will learn of the demons of our past so we as a society will not be doomed to repeat this evil act.C.J. WEBBER-NEAL, GREENWOOD ARTS & CULTURAL SOCIETY, INC., PRESIDENT
At this time, we also encourage this body to add in the Governor’s place survivors and descendants of the massacre, so that representation of this painful period in our hpistory can be reflected thru the experiences of those who were directly impacted by this tragic event.
Furthermore, we encourage any available monetary relief be given by this organization to the three survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. This should be done as both a sign of reconciliation and the rising of the eternal spirit of Greenwood. This we believe is long overdue.”
The Centennial Commission commemorates the Tulsa Race Massacre. The commission previously gave Stitt the option to resign from the commission.
The massacre occurred over an 18 hour period from May 31 to June 1, 1921, as a white mob attacked Black community members and set fire to homes and businesses in the predominately Black Greenwood neighborhood in Tulsa. Thirty-five city blocks were burned down, over 800 people were treated for injuries and historians believe as many as 300 people may have been killed.
The Centennial Commission is focusing on memorializing the tragic event as its 100th-anniversary approaches.
“With just weeks before the Centennial of one of the worst Race massacres in the history of the U.S., Commissioners stand united in focusing time, energy and efforts on descendants, survivors, education, economic development and progress this year and beyond,” the Centennial Commission said in their statement. “We hope to see many of you in person or virtually at some of our events that we hope will drive change for years to come.”
Another member of the commission, state Rep. Monroe Nichols of Tulsa, resigned from the panel Tuesday over Stitt’s signing of the bill, saying it “cast an ugly shadow on the phenomenal work done over the last five years.”
The commission has developed and promoted programs, events and activities to remember the 1921 massacre and memorialize its victims. Among the events are “Greenwood: An American Dream Destroyed,” a presentation that wraps a monthlong run this weekend, and “Greenwood Rising: The Black Wall Street History Center,” which is scheduled to be unveiled June 2.
NewsNation affiliate KFOR and The Associated Press contributed to this report.