Tulsa Race Massacre Event Headlined by John Legend, Stacey Abrams Canceled After Dispute With Survivors

John Legend and Stacey Abrams were scheduled to headline a Tulsa Race Massacre event. (Credit: Shutterstock)

A key part of Oklahoma’s Tulsa Race Massacre commemoration that was scheduled to include appearances by Grammy-winning musician John Legend and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams has been abruptly canceled.

In a statement, organizers blamed “unexpected circumstances” for the cancellation of the May 31 “Remember & Rise” celebration.

“Due to unexpected circumstances with entertainers and speakers, the Centennial Commission is unable to fulfill our high expectations for Monday afternoon’s commemoration event and has determined not to move forward with the event at this time,” organizers said, adding that a similar event might take place later this year.

The Centennial Commission offered no additional details, but NBC News reported the event was scrapped because lawyers representing survivors of the 1921 massacre “demanded a higher fee” to participate and organizers thought the amount was unreasonable.

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The three living survivors are 107, 106 and 100 years old. Representatives for the survivors initially requested $100,000 each to participate in the event, plus a $2 million donation to a reparations fund, state Sen. Kevin Matthews said at a news conference Friday per NBC. The Centennial Commission agreed to the terms.

But lawyers representing the three survivors requested a change in the terms at the last minute, saying the survivors should get $1 million each and the donation to the reparations fund should be increased to $50 million, Matthews told reporters.

“We could not respond to those demands,” he said. “I absolutely want the survivors, the descendants and others that were affected to be financially and emotionally supported, however this is not the way, no matter how hard we try.”

The event was going to be nationally televised with actor and author Hill Harper serving as emcee. Also scheduled to take part were spoken word poet Brandon Leake — season 15 winner of America’s Got Talent; Damon Lindelof who created HBO series The Watchmen; Tulsa entertainers Tony Mason and Eldredge Jackson; local politicians; and Greenwood Art Project lead artists Rick Lowe and William Cordova.

“Remember & Rise” was slated to highlight a year of events to educate people about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre that left 300 Black people in the area known as Greenwood (aka Black Wall Street) dead at the hands of white mobs.