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Siblings who survived Tulsa Race Massacre to visit Africa

August 11, 2021 GMT

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Two siblings who survived the Tulsa Race Massacre are going to visit Africa for the first time, fulfilling a lifelong dream.

Viola Fletcher, 107, and her 100-year-old brother Hughes Van Ellis are scheduled to fly to Ghana on Friday and return Aug. 21. They will be accompanied by family members and others.

The all-expenses-paid trip to Accra is being co-sponsored by Our Black Truth, a Virginia-based social media platform, and the Diaspora Africa Forum in Ghana, the Tulsa World reports.

“We are sending out our treasures to, just for a moment, share them with the motherland,” said state Rep. Regina Goodwin, a Tulsa Democrat.

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Organizers have arranged for the siblings to meet President Nana Akufo-Addo, as well as Ghanaian tribal chiefs and other government officials. They also plan to visit the Diaspora Africa Forum embassy and will take part in a traditional naming ceremony, during which Fletcher will be honored as a Queen Mother and Van Ellis as a Chief.

“From the moment they touch down in Ghana they are going to be treated like celebrities, like royalty,” said Michael Thompson, who will accompany them on the trip. “They are really rolling out the red carpet for us.”

The siblings are two of three known survivors of the 1921 massacre. The other, Lessie Randle of Tulsa, 106, declined an invitation to go on the trip but said she would be there in spirit.

The 1921 Tulsa Massacre was a two-day assault by armed white men on Tulsa’s prosperous Black community of Greenwood, also known as Black Wall Street. In the deadly rampage, they burned more than 1,000 homes, looted hundreds of others and destroyed a thriving business district. Estimates of the death toll range from dozens to 300.

“It’s a momentous occasion,” Thompson said of the trip. “Our goal is to replace some of these horrific memories of Black Wall Street with some great memories.”

Taking into account the siblings advanced ages, safety will be paramount. Thompson said everyone on the trip will have 24-hour security, medical care available and will follow strict protocols to protect against COVID-19.

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For AP coverage of the Tulsa Race Massacre anniversary, go to: https://apnews.com/hub/tulsa-race-massacre.