PRESIDENT Joe Biden is expected to promise $100billion to minority-owned businesses today as he visits Oklahoma to speak at the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre.
He will be the first president to take part in the events commemorating the attack on "Black Wall Street", which saw dozens of black people killed and hundreds of homes destroyed when white people rioted and looted through the area on May 31 and June 1, 1921.
Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a press briefing aboard Air Force One as Biden traveled to Tulsa on Tuesday that the president "wants to make sure it's not a forgotten story."
"It's something he has been familiar with for quite a long time," she added,noting a tweet from the commemoration last year in which Biden had said that the Tulsa Race Massacre had been "erased from the national conscience for far too long."
While Biden is in Tulsa, he is expected to hold a closed meeting with some survivors of the massacre.
A vigil was already held on Monday night in which hundreds gathered to pay tribute to the victims.
He will also tour the Greenwood Cultural Center with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge, White House domestic policy czar Susan Rice, and public engagement director Cedric Richmond, before delivering remarks.
During his speech, Biden is expected to announce plans to address the racial wealth gap in the US.
The White House said the plan will target "two key wealth-creators:" homeownership and small business ownership.
"Because disparities in wealth compound like an interest rate, the disinvestment in black families in Tulsa and across the country throughout our history is still felt sharply today," the White House said in a statement.
As part of the proposal, the Department of Housing and Urban Development will publish two new rules, Axios reports.
This will "align federal enforcement practice" with the Fair Housing Act, it states.
The new rules will also allow the HUD to require public and private entities "to rethink established practices that contribute to or perpetuate inequities."
Under the plans for small businesses, the Biden administration will increase the number of federal contracts directed to small disadvantaged businesses by 50 percent by 2026.
It predicts that this will lower the barrier to entry for minority-owned businesses.
It expects that this policy will result in an additional $100billion going to "traditionally-underserved entrepreneurs" in five years' time.
In the Tulsa speech, Biden will note the $10billion community revitalization fund he has included in his infrastructure proposal.
The White House said this fund will help communities "that suffer from the effects of persistent poverty, historic economic disinvestment, and ongoing displacement of longtime residents."
It will also "support the planning, removal, or retrofitting of existing transportation infrastructure that creates a barrier to community connectivity."
Biden's vist to Tulsa comes after a year of national reckoning on racial justice following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor last year.
The deaths sparked a year of Black Lives Matter protests worldwide.
Donald Trump was the last sitting president to visit Tulsa.
Last year, Trump held his first campaign rally after the suspension of events due to the Covid pandemic in the city.
He picked the controversial date of June 19, or Juneteenth, the day that commemorates the end of slavery.
It was met with fierce criticism and while Trump postponed his rally by a day, it was still met with large protests.
The Tulsa Race Massacre began when white people went onto Greenwood Avenue in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on May 31, 1921, to destroy black-owned homes and shops, and killed dozens of black people.
Many structures of Greenwood were demolished and at least 1,250 black homes were destroyed.
It was an area that had previously been a center of economy and business known as Black Wall Street.
“People was getting killed and seemed like they were breaking in people's homes and taking … some of their valuables,” Viola Fletcher, one of the massacre’s survivors told NBC News this week.
“But just ransacking the neighborhood, you know, damaging most everything that the black people had.”
The massacre left 35 city blocks in ruins and over 800 people injured, according to a post by the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum.
Around $1.5million to $2million (which is equal to $25million today) worth of damages was incurred due to the massacre, historian Hannibal B. Johnson told NBC News.
Official records stated that 37 people were killed during the massacre.
But many historians and black people in Tulsa reportedly estimated that the massacre took away around 300 lives as the missing bodies were thrown in the Arkansas River.
Thousands of survivors were also forced into internment camps that were overseen by the National Guard.
In 2020, a reparations lawsuit was filed alleging that the state of Oklahoma and Tulsa are held accountable for this incident, Tulsa County District Court records revealed.
The lawsuit represented one of the last survivors Lessie Benningfield Randle, and others.
Fletcher addressed Capitol Hill lawmakers for the first time earlier in May about the trauma and damage caused by the massacre, NPR reported.
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