Those talks – over whether the commission should take the money it had collected and use it for repairs, how much money that would represent and who would control it – collapsed on Wednesday. According to the committee, Ms Abrams, a voting rights activist and former candidate for governor of Georgia, withdrew on the same day. Mr. Legend followed Thursday, without giving any specific reason. The commission announced the cancellation Thursday evening.
For many of those who had been involved for years in these efforts, this came as no complete surprise.
“This clash was happening,” said J. Kavin Ross, chairman of the committee overseeing the search in the city for mass graves of massacre victims. “It was just a matter of time.”
In 2017, Kevin Matthews, a black state senator, founded the Centennial Commission, which is dedicated to commemorating the event and “telling the story of Greenwood in a major way.” The predominantly black commission is made up of elected officials, representatives of philanthropy and education, and members of the community. He raised $ 30 million, almost all for a history exhibition center called Greenwood Rising and much of the rest for a cultural center and art projects in Greenwood.
Damario Solomon-Simmons, a lawyer representing survivors in a lawsuit against the city and a range of municipal and state entities implicated in the massacre or its aftermath, argued that part of that $ 30 million, as well as income from the history center, should be used as direct compensation. The commission, he said in a previous interview with The New York Times, includes representatives of government authorities involved in the massacre and has raised funds “using accounts of the massacre for a building” without providing financial support. to ‘real survivors and descendants. “
The commission, for its part, argued that a campaign aimed at its memory efforts is misplaced.
“The centennial commission was never intended to raise money for reparations,” said Hannibal B. Johnson, a lawyer from Tulsa who is the commission’s education chair. “Reparations should come from government entities because there is evidence that they were complicit. This is their moral obligation. “