Biden to detail plans to build black wealth at Tulsa event

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President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced plans to build black wealth and narrow the racial income gap ahead of a trip to Oklahoma to mark the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. 

Biden’s plan focuses on two key creators of wealth: homeownership and small business ownership. 

Under his proposal, the Department of Housing and Urban Development will propose new regulations ‘to root out discrimination in the appraisal and homebuying process,’ according to a White House fact sheet, in a bid to boost black home ownership.

The administration also is seeking to address disparities that result in black-owned homes being appraised at tens of thousands of dollars less than comparable homes owned by whites.

And the president vowed to use the power of federal contracts to invest $100 billion over five years into minority-owned businesses by increasing the share of federal contracts awarded to those businesses by 50% by 2026.

Additionally, under his American Jobs Plan that has yet to be passed by Congress, Biden has proposed giving $10 billion in grants to under served communities along with an additional $20 billion in grants for infrastructure and affordable housing.

Survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre – Hughes Van Ellis, 100, Lessie Benningfield Randle, 106, also known as Mother Randle, and Viola Fletcher, 107 – at a ceremony Memorial Day weekend

The Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa on June 1, 1921, during the riot

The wealth gap between whites and blacks has grown over the past two decades: from about $100,000 in 1992 to $154,000 in 2016, according to a recent study from McKinsey. The study also found that almost 70 percent of middle-class black children are likely to fall out of the middle class as adults.  

Biden plan to combat racial wealth gap

To combat discrimination in housing market, the Biden administration will address inequity in home appraisals and conducting rulemaking to aggressively combat housing discrimination

Use the federal government’s purchasing power to grow federal contracting with small disadvantaged businesses by 50 percent, translating to an additional $100 billion over five years

Under the American Jobs Proposal, which is still being negotiated with Congress:

-$10 billion Community Revitalization Fund to support community-led civic infrastructure projects

-$15 billion for new grants and technical assistance to support the planning, removal, or retrofitting of existing transportation infrastructure that creates barriers for opportunities

-A new Neighborhood Homes Tax Credit to attract private investment in the development and rehabilitation of affordable homes

-$5 billion for the Unlocking Possibilities Program, a grant program to reduce needless barriers to producing affordable housing and expand housing choices for people with low or moderate incomes

-$31 billion in small business programs that will increase access to capital for small businesses and provide mentoring, networking, and other forms of technical assistance

Source: White House fact sheet 

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The White House announcement Tuesday morning comes ahead of Biden’s trip to Tulsa, where he will be the first president to take part in remembrances for the Tulsa Massacre, one of the worst – and largely overlooked – acts of racial violence in American history. 

On May 31 and June 1, 1921, mobs of white residents, many of them deputized and given weapons by city officials, attacked black residents and burned businesses in a largely African-American neighborhood in the city.

Called the Tulsa Race Massacre or Black Wall Street Massacre, as many as 300 people were killed, more than 10,000 were homeless, and, according to the Tulsa Race Riot Report of 2001, an estimated $1,470,711 was incurred in damage – equal to about $20 million today. 

In the aftermath, thousands of survivors were forced into internment camps overseen by the National Guard before being released. Of the more than 30-block black neighborhood, burned bricks and a fragment of a church basement are all that stand.

In a White House proclamation on Monday in honor the 100th anniversary of the massacre, Biden called on Americans to reflect on the ‘roots of racial terror.’

‘I call upon the people of the United States to commemorate the tremendous loss of life and security that occurred over those 2 days in 1921, to celebrate the bravery and resilience of those who survived and sought to rebuild their lives again, and commit together to eradicate systemic racism and help to rebuild communities and lives that have been destroyed by it,’ the president declared a day before his planned visit to Tulsa. 

‘Today, on this solemn centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, I call on the American people to reflect on the deep roots of racial terror in our Nation and recommit to the work of rooting out systemic racism across our country.’ 

Biden’s visit on Tuesday takes place during a national reckoning on racial justice and as Congress debates police reform in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. 

His trip is also in stark contrast to the most recent visit to Tulsa by a president, when Donald Trump resumed his campaign rallies there last year amid a surge in coronavirus cases. 

Trump was criticized for originally scheduling his return rally on the date of Juneteenth – the anniversary of the end of slavery –  and he battled local health officials who worried about the pandemic. 

Additionally, his rally was announced in the weeks following the murder of George Floyd by white cop Derek Chauvin, which reignited the Black Lives Matter movement last summer.  

The rally was a bust – with the stadium filled with rows of empty seats and the overflow area outside shut down when the crowds didn’t materialize.  Three weeks after the rally Oklahoma saw a record rise in COVID cases. 

During his visit, Biden will give remarks at the Greenwood Cultural Center, where he will talk about his proposal to close the racial wealth gap. He will also meet privately with survivors of the massacre.

One of those survivors is a 107-year-old grandmother named Viola Fletcher. She was just seven years old when she witnessed the carnage.

‘The night of the massacre, I was awakened by my family. My parents and five siblings were there. I was told we had to leave and that was it. I will never forget the violence of the White mob when we left our home,’ Fletcher said at a House Judiciary hearing earlier this month. Some lawmakers have ramped up calls for reparations for survivors and their families in the lead-up to the 100th anniversary.

‘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,’ she said. 

Fletcher and the two other survivors still alive today, 100-year-old Hughes Van Ellis and 106-year-old Lessie Benningfield Randle, as well as victims’ descendants, were honored at a ceremony in Tulsa on Monday. Fletcher and Ellis, who are siblings, were present. 

In a speech in Tulsa on Tuesday, President Joe Biden will detail plans to build black wealth and narrow racial income gap

Survivor Viola Fletcher is given flowers during a soil dedication ceremony for victims of the 1921 Tulsa Massacre on Monday

President Donald Trump was the last president to visit Tulsa – he restarted his campaign rallies at a poorly attended event on June 20, 2020, during the height of the COVID pandemic

On his trip, Biden will be joined by members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The Tulsa visit comes a week after Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat, introduced the ‘Tulsa Greenwood Massacre Claims Accountability Act,’ which would help victims and their descendants seek reparations from the government.  

THE 1921 TULSA RACE RIOT: AN ATTACK ON ‘BLACK WALL STREET’ IN GREENWOOD 

After World War I, Tulsa was recognized for its affluent African-American community known as the Greenwood District. 

The community was often referred to as the ‘Black Wall Street’ because of its thriving businesses and residential area, but in June 1921, the community was nearly destroyed during the Tulsa Race Riot. 

The events leading up to the riot began on May 30, 1921, when a young black man named Dick Rowland was riding in the elevator with a woman named Sarah Page. 

The details of what followed vary from person to person and it’s unclear what actually happened, but Rowland was arrested the next day by Tulsa police, with reports suggesting Rowland assaulted Page.

During the Tulsa Riot, 35 city blocks were completely destroyed and more than 800 people were treated for injuries. Historians believe as many as 300 people may have died in the riot

Subsequently, a report in the Tulsa Tribune dated May 31, 1921 was published that night with an accompanying editorial stating that a lynching was planned for that night.

This started a confrontation between black and white armed men at the courthouse, with the white men demanding that Rowland be lynched while the black men tried to protect him.

During a struggle between two men in the mobs over a gun, shots were fired and a white man was shot, causing the the African-American group to retreat to the Greenwood District.

In the early morning hours of June 1, 1921, Greenwood was looted and burned by an estimated 10,000 white rioters, who flooded into the streets shooting residents. Planes also reportedly dropped incendiary bombs on the area.

Many of the white mob had recently returned from World War I and trained in the use of firearms, are are said to have shot Black Americans on sight.

Pictured: Part of Greenwood District burning during the Race Riots, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA, June 1921. More than 1,400 homes and businesses were destroyed. The picture caption above says ‘Burning of Church Where Ammunition was Stored-During Tulsa Race Riot-6-1-21’

In addition, more than 1,400 homes and businesses were destroyed, and nearly 10,000 people were left homeless. 

The riots lasted for two days, and Governor Robertson declared martial law, and National Guard troops were called in to Tulsa. 

During the riot, 35 city blocks were completely destroyed. Historians believe as many as 300 people may have died in the riot – mostly Black Americans -and more than 800 people were treated for injuries.

Bodies were buried in mass graves while families of those who were killed in the riots were held in prison under martial law according to Scott Ellsworth, a University of Michigan historian, in December.

The families of the deceased were never told whether their loved ones died in the massacre, or where they were buried, and no funerals were held. 

Until the 1990s, the massacre was rarely mentioned in history books, and in 2001, the Race Riot Commission was organized to review the details of the deadly riot. 

 Source: Tulsa History.org

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