Two surviving elders of the Tulsa Oklahoma Massacre of 1921 will make ‘The Journey of a Lifetime’ to Ghana, West Africa, later this year. The journey of a lifetime celebrates two elders, both of whom are survivors of the Black Wall Street Massacre that took place from May 30 to June 1, 1921. This year marks the centennial of that horrific event that left the community burned to the ground and an estimated 3,000 people, men, women and children killed over two tragic days.
The sponsoring organization, Our Black Truth, the new social media platform created by brothers Michael and Eric Thompson with the company’s COO, Dr. Toni Luck, says this historic journey, called, “Coming Home” was especially created to replace bad memories with good ones…
On the evening of May 31st, 1921, a white mob from the neighboring town of Tulsa, Oklahoma, descended on the prosperous Black neighborhood of Greenwood, intent on burning that community to the ground. In the aftermath of the nightmare that unfolded for Greenwood’s Black residents, homes and businesses were destroyed, and an estimated 3,000 innocent people, including women and children, were gunned down in the streets, many of the dead dumped in mass, unmarked graves.
Two of those children, Viola Fletcher, age 7, and her newly born brother, Hughes Van Ellis, now 107 and 100, respectively, are both survivors of those two terrible days. Viola, who witnessed the violence of that terrible night in 1921, has been haunted throughout her long life by memories of all that she saw 100 years ago. “On that night, in 1921, I went to bed in my family’s home in Greenwood, a community that was rich, not only in terms of wealth, but in culture, community, and heritage,” said Mother Fletcher. “My family had a beautiful home. We had great neighbors, and I had friends to play with. I felt safe. I had everything a child could need. I had a bright future ahead of me. Greenwood could have given me the chance to truly make a good life in this country. But within a few horrible hours, all of that was gone….”
The night of the Massacre, a young Viola Fletcher, affectionately known today as “Mother Fletcher,” was roused by her parents, Lucinda Ellis and John Wesley Ford, along with her five siblings, and told they had to leave their home immediately. When the family came out into the street they were greeted with images of unspeakable violence, smelled acrid smoke from burning homes, businesses and buildings, and Black bodies lying dead in the street as the white mob made its way through Greenwood.
“I will never forget the violence of the white mob as we made our escape, and to this day I still see Black men being shot, still smell smoke and everything around us on fire.
I still see airplanes flying overhead dropping firebombs. and still hear the screams of terrified people. I relive the Massacre every day…” Mother Fletcher began. “When my family was forced to leave Tulsa, I lost my chance at an education. I never finished school past the fourth grade. I never made much money. My country, the state of Oklahoma, and Tulsa took a lot from me and from so many others.
Despite this, I spent time supporting the country during the Second World War, working in California’s shipyards.” Mother Fletcher added.
“But for most of my life, I was a domestic worker serving white families, but to this day I can barely afford my everyday needs, while the City of Tulsa has unjustly used the names and stories of victims like me to enrich itself while I continue to live in poverty…”
Recently, after years of being relegated as hidden history, the Tulsa Oklahoma/Black Wall Street Massacre has finally begun to gain its rightful place in the history of the United States of America, with news media interviews and entertainment programs (most notably 60 Minutes on CBS, and HBO’s The Watchmen series), and documentary films retelling the story of the events that took place so long ago in Tulsa, events most people in the United States, until now, had very little knowledge of, and when and if it was spoken of, was classified as a “race riot” which has very different connotations than a massacre.
“Imagine a long life where you saw men walk on the moon, and every conceivable accomplishment of this nation, including the Civil Rights Movement, and even the election of a Black President,” said Dr. Toni Luck, Chief Operating Officer of Our Black Truth, Inc.,
“And then you have people like Mother Viola Fletcher, who lived to see all of that, but who has also been haunted for 100 years by painful memories of what she and others in the Greenwood community suffered that night in Tulsa, Oklahoma!
It’s for this reason that my organization and our sponsors are taking Mother Fletcher and Uncle Redd to Africa, fulfilling a personal dream that Mother Fletcher has had for decades, that will, at long last, replace those hurtful memories with good ones…”
Mother Fletcher and her brother, Hughes Van Ellis, known in the community as “Uncle Redd,” was originally scheduled to travel to Accra, Ghana, West Africa from July 30th through August 7th, 2021, but now has been changed and will be announced closer to the actual travel dates. When there, they will enjoy a spectacular itinerary and the great hospitality of the Ghanaian people, government officials, tribal chiefs and Nanas, tour Cape Coast to see the dungeons at the slave castles there, and stand in the ‘Door of No Return.’
They will also be greeted upon arrival by Our Black Truth’s on-ground partner, H.E. Ambassador Erika Bennett, the Head of Mission for the Diaspora Africa Forum, the only embassy for the African Diaspora, located at the historic W.E.B Dubois Center in Accra, be feted by His Majesty Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the Asantehene, King of the Ashanti people at his palace in Kumasi, Ghana.
They will also place names of their ancestors on the Sankofa Wall, a memorial established on the Diaspora Africa Forum’s grounds, and they will be welcomed at Jubilee House by the President and Vice President of the Nation.
“We believe every African American, in their heart of hearts, has a desire to see the Motherland!” said Ike Howard, grandson of Mother Fletcher.
“My Grandmother wants to see where she believes our history originated and at 107 years old has made visiting Africa a priority to be realized during her remaining years…”
Along with Our Black Truth social media, some of the other sponsoring organizations on both sides of the Atlantic of this historic undertaking include The Diaspora Africa Forum, The African Communications Agency, and The Africa Legacy Fund.
This story first appeared in the Chicago Crusader.