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Survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre have been granted citizenship by Ghana. At 108 years old, Viola Fletcher and her 102 year old brother Hughes Van Ellis are now among the oldest African Americans to gain dual citizenship in this West African nation.
In 2021, during their week-long visit to Ghana, they were bestowed with royal Ghanian names and met President Nana Akufo-Addo. He has invited members of the African diaspora to his country as part of a yearlong "Year of Return," marking 400 years since enslaved Africans first arrived in America.
Viola Fletcher, 108 years old, and her brother Hughes Van Ellis, 102 years old, became the oldest African Americans to gain Ghanaian citizenship on Tuesday during a ceremony at the embassy in Washington DC.
Fletcher and Ellis, survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre, were children when a racist White mob stormed their neighborhood in Greenwood, Oklahoma and destroyed one of Oklahoma's most prosperous Black communities. Over 300 people were killed and an area measuring 35 square blocks was completely demolished.
Fletcher and her brother, now 107 years old, still bear the scars of that night in their hearts. Their memories serve as a constant reminder that America must still heal from generations of racism that has persisted here.
They are now fighting the city of Tulsa to pay them and their descendants reparations for the crimes that still haunt them. Through a historic public nuisance lawsuit, they demand an independent investigation and justice for the genocidal attack.
On the occasion of their citizenship ceremony, President Nana Akufo-Addo cordially welcomed the two survivors to Ghana and expressed his joy that Ghana is open and welcoming to all nationalities. He noted that his government wanted to demonstrate to those living abroad that Ghana is a place that embraces and accepts everyone, no matter their background.
"We want the African diaspora to know this is a place for them to come and reestablish and connect," Akufo-Addo told Ghana's press on their citizenship ceremony.
"Today is a day for all of us in the diaspora to be reminded that our history matters and that we remain connected. It also serves as a reminder that it's important not to forget our roots or stop striving for betterment."
In 2021, the Ghanaian government, Diaspora Africa Forum, and members of Osu Traditional Council honored the sisters with royal Ghanian names during a ceremony that gave them both an African name and parcel of land.
Now Ghanaian citizens, the siblings are determined to ensure their story is not forgotten in their adopted nation. They hope to serve as examples for other survivors to stand up for their rights and ensure a brighter future for themselves and Ghana.
Two of the last remaining survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre -- Viola Fletcher (known as Mother Fletcher) and her brother Hughes Van Ellis -- have been granted Ghanaian citizenship. These individuals were the only living witnesses to one of America's most notorious racist lynchings when white mobs murdered 300 African Americans and destroyed their business community in Tulsa.
On May 31, 1921, white groups invaded an all-Black neighborhood of Tulsa known as Greenwood and massacred its residents before burning their homes. This event left 35 square blocks of this prosperous Black community devastated.
President Nana Akufo-Addo welcomed the two Survivors to his country and commended their strength in surviving this horrific massacre. He told them, "This is your country; anyone who wants to come re-establish connections with us here is welcome."
Since 2021, they have been traveling to Africa as part of the Beyond the Return initiative - an offshoot of the Year of Return 2019. While in Tulsa, they visited numerous sites commemorating the Tulsa Race Massacre and Osu Castle - home to one of the world's most renowned slave dungeons - for commemorations.
Erieka Bennett, founder and coordinator of Diaspora African Forum and Beyond the Return initiative, believes that Ghana's visit is a signal of renewed interest from Africa's diaspora as an access point. Furthermore, it will give momentum to fulfill Ghana's vision of living beyond aid - something she hopes this visit will achieve.
On Tuesday at the Ghana Embassy in Washington, DC, two survivors took an oath of allegiance to their country and signed certification documents as Ghanaian citizens. The ceremony marked their official initiation into citizenship.
At the embassy, Fletcher and Ellis were warmly welcomed by Ghanaian officials and Hajia Alima Mahama, Ghana's first female ambassador to the US. She noted that these two survivors had been granted citizenship in recognition of their courage and sacrifices.
At the ceremony, members of both African American and Ghanaian communities, as well as government officials, attended. Survivors Viola Fletcher and Hughes Van Ellis took an oath of citizenship and received Ghanian Royal names at the invitation of Minister Yaw Adjei Asamoah of Tourism, Arts, and Culture.
On Tuesday, two of the last survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre received citizenship in Ghana. Viola Fletcher (108 years) and her brother Hughes Van Ellis (102), became the oldest African-Americans ever granted citizenship within an African nation.
On May 31, 1921, a white mob attacked Greenwood, an economically prosperous Black business community once known as "Black Wall Street." They massacred hundreds of residents and destroyed their homes and businesses - turning what had once been an affluent neighborhood into a shanty town in just minutes.
Survivors of the massacre have been seeking justice for years. Additionally, they filed a lawsuit to seek reparations from Tulsa and local governments. Recently, however, Justice for Greenwood Foundation awarded them with $1 million grant in order to continue their fight.
President Nana Akufo-Addo, who has called for a 'Year of Return' to mark 400 years since African slaves were first transported to America, invited Fletcher and Ellis to visit Ghana in 2021. During their weeklong stay, they were bestowed with royal Ghanian names and titles, sworn in as citizens of Ghana, and met with President Akufo-Addo for an official welcome.
After they took the oath, Hajia Alima Mahama, Ghana's ambassador to the US, congratulated both Fletcher and Ellis on their newfound success. She then bestowed them with African names and a plot of land which would serve as their home.
At the ceremony, Viola Fletcher donned the regalia of a queen mother - complete with her sash and crown. The 108-year-old was officially named Queen Mother Naa Lameley Viola Fletcher while her brother was given the name Nii Bio Lantey Hughes Van Ellis.
Organised by Erieka Bennett, founder of the Diaspora African Forum and supported by Ghana Tourism Authority and government representatives from Washington D.C., this ceremony took place at the Embassy of Ghana.
On this special occasion, an audience of Ghanaian dignitaries, including Hajia Alima Mahama - Ghana's first female ambassador to the US - witnessed the swearing-in. Rocky Dawuni, a Ghanaian reggae singer who has performed in several U.S. cities, also joined in on the ceremony as well.
In 2021, Viola Fletcher and Hughes Van Ellis of Ghanaian descent flew to Africa at 107 years old and 100 years old respectively. On their trip, President Nana Akufo-Addo conferred on them citizenship and land in Accra - giving them royal Ghanian names as Chief Bio Lantey for Ellis and Queen Mother Naa Lameley respectively.
Akufo-Addo paid tribute to the survivors, saying they lived to tell their tale. "This is truly a story of resilience," he told reporters.
On this date 100 years ago, the Tulsa Race Massacre occurred and remains one of the worst acts of racial terror against Black people in American history. It destroyed Greenwood - then known as "Black Wall Street," an iconic Black neighborhood.
On May 31, 1921, an indignant white mob set fire to 1,250 homes and killed hundreds in Tulsa's Greenwood district. This violent act left 35 blocks of this district devastated, wiping away decades of Black progress there.
It also destroyed many businesses in the area, such as hotels and restaurants. Some historians estimate that more than 300 Black people were killed and thousands more left homeless.
In the years after the massacre, survivors sought justice. Some were able to receive compensation through federal government programs; however, others are still waiting for their cases to be resolved.
For decades, survivors have struggled to be heard and recognized for their strength. Now they are supported by a philanthropic group called Justice for Greenwood.
This week, a private family donated an additional $1 million to ensure the survivors remain eligible for justice. Through their support of the foundation, $1 million will be able to continue its work towards justice for these brave souls.
Akufo-Addo expressed his joy that the two oldest survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre could travel to Africa and be recognized for their strength and African roots. He noted that their story wasn't just about the Tulsa Race Massacre but about racial violence in America as a whole.