John Legend was recently named as the headline act for a ceremony in remembrance of the Tulsa Race Massacre.
The Remember & Rise event will be televised on May 31, 2021.
Legend, a philanthropist and advocate for criminal justice reform, will perform and speak at the event. He is the first Black man to win Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards.
“John Legend is known for his poignant performances and his transformational statements on civil rights for Black Americans,” 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission director Phil Armstrong said.
“Remember & Rise is a once-in-a-lifetime event and John Legend’s participation ensures a global audience learns the history of what occurred here 100 years ago, on the streets of the most affluent African American community of the early Twentieth Century.”
The Remember & Rise program includes keynote addresses from American civic leaders and other musical performances. More announcements are expected throughout the month of May.
Tulsa in 1921 was a city divided due to Jim Crow laws. A talented and proud group of Black businesspersons and entrepreneurs flourished in the area known as the “Greenwood District.” It was the wealthiest Black neighbourhood in the United States.
All that changed during the overnight hours of May 31 to June 1, 1921, when a white mob charged into the Greenwood District and murdered up to 300 Black men, women and children.
At least 1,500 Black homes were burned, along with over 600 businesses, churches, schools and other important centres. Ten thousand Black residents were left homeless.
The catalyst for the massacre was a chance meeting between a young Black man, Dick Rowland, and a white woman, Sarah Page, in an elevator on May 30, 1921.
Details of their meeting were never clearly reported, but authorities arrested Rowland for allegedly assaulting Page. Rowland was taken to the local courthouse where a white mob threatened to lynch him.
Black groups marched to the courthouse to protect Rowland, and they exchanged words with the white mob. A gun discharged and thousands of white men invaded the Greenwood District.
The white community’s jealousy of the Black wealth in the District, white supremacy, and a greed for valuable land, all fueled the fire that burned during the riot.
No one was ever held accountable for the murders, arson, or destruction caused by the Tulsa Race Massacre. But the Black community rebuilt, and the Greenwood District still lives.
SOURCES: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, CNN.COM, TULSA2021.ORG, TULSAHISTORY.ORG