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Black community massacre: Biden urges Americans to root out systemic racism

President Joe Biden

By Cecilia Ologunagba

New York, June 1, 2021

U.S. President, Joe Biden, has urged Americans to reflect on the deep roots of racial terror in the nation and root out systemic racism across our country.

Biden stated this in “A Proclamation on Day of Remembrance: 100 Years After The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre” issued to commemorate the centenary anniversary of the massacre of successful Black Americans.

In 1921, a violent white supremacist mob raided, firebombed, and destroyed approximately 35 square blocks of the thriving Black neighbourhood of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, according to reports.

Families and children were murdered in cold blood, with homes, businesses, and churches burnt while as many as 300 Black Americans were killed and nearly 10,000 were left destitute and homeless.

Before the massacre, Greenwood was a thriving Black community that had grown into a proud economic and cultural hub while at its centre was Greenwood Avenue, commonly known as “Black Wall Street.”

In the decades following the civil war and reconstruction, Greenwood became a place where Black Americans were able to make a new start and secure economic progress in spite of the continued pain of institutional and overt racism.

The community was home to a growing number of prominent Black entrepreneurs as well as working-class black families who shared a commitment to social activism and economic opportunity.

As Greenwood grew, Greenwood Avenue teemed with successful Black-owned businesses, including restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, and offices for doctors, lawyers and dentists.

The community also maintained its own school system, post office, a savings and loan institution, hospital, and bus and taxi service.

Biden said the Federal Government must reckon with and acknowledge the role that it played in stripping wealth and opportunity from Black communities.

He said the Biden-Harris administration was committed to acknowledging the role Federal policy played in Greenwood and other Black communities and addressing longstanding racial inequities through historic investments.

“To address racial inequality through historic investment in the economic security of children and families; programmes to provide capital for small businesses in economically disadvantaged areas, including minority-owned businesses.

“Also, ensuring that infrastructure projects increase opportunity, advance racial equity and environmental justice, and promote affordable access.’’

Biden recalled that a century later, the fear and pain from the devastation of Greenwood was still being felt as Viola Fletcher, a 107-year-old survivor of the Tulsa Race Massacre courageously testified before the Congress recently.

The U.S. leader quoted Fletcher, as saying, “I will never forget the violence of the white mob when we left our home.

“I still see Black men being shot, Black bodies lying in the street. I still smell smoke and see fire. 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. Our country may forget this history, but I cannot.”

Biden said he was committed to the survivors of the Tulsa Race massacre, including Viola Fletcher, Hughes Van Ellis, and Lessie Benningfield Randle, the descendants of victims, and to this Nation that we will never forget.

“We honour the legacy of the Greenwood community, and of Black Wall Street, by reaffirming our commitment to advance racial justice through the whole of our government, and working to root out systemic racism from our laws, our policies, and our hearts,” he said.

Biden called upon the people of the U.S.  to commemorate the tremendous loss of life and security that occurred over those two days in 1921. 

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