A “FREEWILL REPARATION” FOR DESCENDANTS OF 1921 TULSA MASSACRE

Greg Taylor and Leron West

One of the 1256 applicants for a conveyance of reparations helped us with another angle on private reparations that we want to share with you now in the following story. Leron West helped us realize that one reason 1256 Movement reparations works is because they are conveyed by freewill, not by tax payers forced by decree or lawsuit to give reparations.

In 2021, six reparations payments of $10,000 were conveyed to Black families. 1256 Movement plans to convey reparation payments to twelve Black families in 2022. Each family wishing to build a new or remodeled home may apply at 1256 Movement here. In turn, we are visiting with each applying family in their homes to get to know them and see remodeling or new plans they have.

One of those families is Leron and Mary West. I visited with Leron and Mary by phone and personally in their home off of Denver Ave. north of Pine to see a bathroom and laundry remodel they wanted to do. An important part of some remodels is bringing homes up to code for aging people to bath and do laundry. The West’s washer and dryer is currently in the basement. They have to lift a floor door and go down and up stairs to do laundry. In their 80s, they need a safer place to do laundry and the plan LeRon has is to convert one of the three bedrooms into a laundry room.

When I had planned to visit and begin conveying payments, first for plumbing materials for this project, Leron asked me by phone if he could have 20-30 minutes of my time when I arrived. I said yes, and when I arrived I thought maybe he had something he needed unloaded from the truck related to the plumbing project. Leron, though he turns 90 this year, still works and is contracting and getting help for the plumbing project himself. No, he did not need help with the project. He wanted to show me something about his family history related to the 1921 Tulsa Massacre.

Leron is also a committed follower of Jesus and student of the Bible, and when I arrived I noticed his books and Bible on the table. He reviewed the remodel of the bathroom and moving of the laundry to the main floor, then he asked if we could take a drive.

During the drive Leron showed me where his family’s home was burned down. The site of the house is just south of the football field that now exists east of Carver Middle School. Leron went to Carver Middle School in the 1940s when it was an all-Black school. He remembers Pine and Greenwood both being full of businesses in the revival of Greenwood and Black Wall Street after the massacre. He reminisced about carrying lumber with his dad from the lumber yard on Pine, about how his dad opened the diner on Greenwood. Leron named the diner after his daughter. The family diner was second door down from the corner of Archer and Greenwood, on the West side of the street, that thrived until the 244 bypass divided Greenwood. Leron had to sell the diner.

Leron went back to school to become a certified electrician. He worked for decades as a licensed electrician and the first Black union certified member in Tulsa. He worked for Williams Electric for twelve years, then started his own electrical contracting business. As I mentioned earlier, Leron is still working, still loving his neighbors, still challenging 1256 Movement with what I’m about to tell you next.

After Leron showed me around Greenwood in his own personal connections to rebuilding after the 1921 Massacre, we sat down at Black Wall Street Liquid Lounge for a cup of coffee. The photo connected to this article is taken there. While we were there, Leron told me this story.

There was a famous king who was an ancestor of Jesus Christ. Jews and Christians know this man as King David. David sought to honor his predecessor King Saul by sending his men throughout Israel to see if any of Saul’s family had survived the awful battles and turmoil of the not-so-peaceful transfer of power. The king’s men found a relative of Saul, a disabled young man named Mephibosheth, and David invited him to eat at his table. This was an act of great honor for a king who tried to kill David. It was also an act of love.

Leron shifted to talking about how some believe reparations are important, but that if some legal battle forces government to pay Black families for the massacre and other racial trauma, the payments would not be out of love. Leron said he believes 1256 is giving reparations out of freewill. Then Leron said something stunning. He said, “I am like Mephibosheth and you are one of the king’s men who has found me and brought me to the table.”

He said he did not want to take the $10,000 reparation payment to repair his bathroom and laundry room without telling me about his family background and getting to know me and the organization by giving me a tour of his life in Greenwood.

He said what he is receiving from 1256 is a freewill offering of love, not forced, and because of this he believes he can accept it with a good conscience.

Over the course of the next few months, Leron kept a meticulous ledger of his expenses against the two draws conveyed to the Wests as a freewill reparation payment. Work on moving the laundry from the cellar where it was dangerous and inaccessible for elderly home owners, and a remodel of their bathroom to be more accessible for aging progressed as Leron and 1256 partnered with Crossover to supply contractors in plumbing and drywall. Leron and his son’s company wired for electric, and the bathroom is now beautifully remodeled and in working condition with new plumbing, vanity, and shower. The Wests can now do laundry just across the hallway from their bedroom instead of lifting a cellar door on their porch and going down slick, dark, muddy stairs to the cellar where the washing machine and dryer were formerly.

Special thanks to West Electrical Contractors, Crossover, Sherry Laskey, and Armanino Foundation. Armanino is an accounting firm out of California with regional offices nationwide. Supported by the company, employees of Armanino volunteer to travel to places like Tulsa to learn and serve. The 1256 Movement partnered with Black Wall Street Liquid Lounge, Guy Troupe, and Kode Ransom to give a life-changing tour of Greenwood to the group. We then visited the homes of Leron West, and five other Black families who are receiving funding for home improvement through 1256 Movement. What a wonderful connection was made between those serving with Armanino and North Tulsa residencies where we worked together for two half days.

1256 BELIEVES IN ALL FORMS OF REPARATIONS

THE 1256 MOVEMENT BELIEVES IN ALL FORMS OF REPARATIONS, INCLUDING NATIONAL, LOCAL, PUBLIC, AND PRIVATE BECAUSE RACIAL TRAUMA, HISTORIC AND ONGOING HARM AND DISCRIMINATION HAS BEEN DONE ON ALL THOSE LEVELS AND BY PUBLIC AND PRIVATE ENTITIES AND INDIVIDUALS.

THEREFORE, We use words carefully so that it is understood that 1256 Movement still believes in a national and local governmental reparations process, that those culpable and guilty should pay reparations. Those who are reparation purists most often forget that churches, businesses, and individuals were also active in the 1921 Tulsa Massacre. The city, county, state, nation have been and still are guilty of racial trauma, land stealing, and ongoing harm and discrimination in education, health care, jobs, and housing. Individuals, businesses, churches, and non-profits have been and still are guilty of racial trauma, massacres, land stealing, and ongoing harm and discrimination in the above named areas and anywhere else white supremacy has wielded power to gain advantage for white people and disadvantage people of color.

1256 Movement is an ongoing community effort to have conversations and action around reparations by individuals and a non-profit as named above, because individuals and organizations were guilty, so also individuals and organizations should be part of reparations. This does not diminish nor does it negatively impact the larger national and local conversation around reparations by government entities. Our organization has stayed in close contact with stakeholders in the Black community to be sure the way we are doing reparations is not interfering with the national and local efforts to hold government accountable for the 1921 Tulsa massacre and ongoing harm done to Black people.

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