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Lankford to stay on Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission after Capitol riot

Lankford to stay on Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission after Capitol riot
© Bonnie Cash

The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission decided this week “to extend an olive branch” and allow Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordRubio and bipartisan group of senators push to make daylight saving time permanent Senate inches toward COVID-19 vote after marathon session Ron Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many MORE (R-Okla.) to remain a member despite backlash he faced for opposing the Electoral College results.

The Monday statement came after a two-week period for members to "reflect" on the issue. The commission ultimately decided to accept Lankford’s apology and “embrace his desire to reaffirm his commitment to helping bring vital resources and opportunities to the Greenwood District, Black Tulsans, and Black Americans from coast to coast.”

“At its core, the Centennial Commission is about reconciliation. For the purpose of achieving that goal, we must continue to harness our connective tissue – even when we are not in absolute agreement," the commission said.

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"Senator Lankford, despite clear differences (some of them profound), stands on common ground with us in terms of the importance of reconciliation as well as educating all United States citizens about Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District, the storied ‘Black Wall Street,’ including the massacre and its impact on Oklahoma and the nation," the statement continued. 

The group acknowledged that the decision to keep Lankford as a member could carry "repercussions." 

"We understood at the outset that it would not be unanimous. Instead, we sought consensus—a well-reasoned decision that all members of the Centennial Commission could support," the commission said. "We stand committed in our resolve to honor the legacy of Black Wall Street, challenge bias, and seek healing."

The Hill has reached out to the senator's office for comment. 

Black leaders in Tulsa have called for Lankford’s removal or resignation earlier this month when he announced his support for the Electoral College challenge, The Tulsa World reported.

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Lankford signed on to a letter from Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump looms over Senate's anti-Asian hate crimes battle Republicans who backed Trump impeachment see fundraising boost US has seen 45 mass shootings in the past month MORE (R-Texas) saying he would vote against the Electoral College results earlier this month unless a commission was formed to provide a 10-day audit of former President TrumpDonald TrumpGraham: 'I could not disagree more' with Trump support of Afghanistan troop withdrawal GOP believes Democrats handing them winning 2022 campaign Former GOP operative installed as NSA top lawyer resigns MORE’s debunked claims of voter fraud. 

The Oklahoma senator later backed down from attempts to continue the challenge after a pro-Trump mob attacked the U.S. Capitol as lawmakers were meeting to certify President Biden's electoral win.

Lankford later wrote a letter apologizing to Black constituents, saying he didn’t realize the attempt would cast doubt “on the validity of votes coming out of predominantly Black communities.”

In a letter addressed to “My friends in North Tulsa” obtained by Tulsa World, Lankford acknowledged that his actions “caused a firestorm of suspicion among many of my friends, particularly in Black communities around the state. I was completely blindsided, but I also found a blind spot.”

The senator wrote in his letter that it was never his intention to “disenfranchise any voter or state” but that he wanted to resolve “any outstanding questions.”

“What I did not realize was all of the national conversation about states like Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, was seen as casting doubt on the validity of votes coming out of predominantly Black communities like Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Detroit,” he wrote.

“After decades of fighting for voting rights, many Black friends in Oklahoma saw this as a direct attack on their right to vote, for their vote to matter, and even a belief that their votes made an election in our country illegitimate,” he continued.

The 1921 Race Massacre Centennial Commission oversees activities related to the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre, where at least 300 Black Tulsa residents were killed by a white mob.

The commission’s statement highlighted several initiatives it is hoping to achieve with Lankford’s help, including integrating the story of Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District into Oklahoma state curricula and testing, as well as securing the Greenwood District a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.