Two centenarian survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 – Viola Fletcher aka “Mother Fletcher”, 108, and her 101-year-old brother, Van “Uncle Red” Ellis – acquired Ghanaian citizenship in a ceremony at Ghana’s embassy in Washington, DC on Tuesday, February 28.
“The family is honored to be receiving Ghanaian citizenship for our priceless Black icons,” shared Ike Howard, Mother Fletcher’s grandson. “Mother Fletcher wanted to visit the Motherland before she caught her wings,” Howard stated. “Now she has the option to live in the Motherland.”
The Tulsa Race Massacre, also known as the Tulsa race riot or the Black Wall Street Massacre, was a two-day-long massacre that took place during Memorial Day weekend of 1921. Mobs of White residents – some of whom had been appointed as deputies and armed by city government officials – attacked Black residents and destroyed homes and businesses of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The event is considered one of the worst incidents of racial violence in American history. The attackers burned and destroyed more than 35 square blocks of the neighborhood, which at the time was one of the wealthiest Black communities in the United States, colloquially known as “Black Wall Street.” Three hundred people were killed, hundreds more injured and 10,000 African Americans were left homeless.
In 2021, the Ghana Tourism Authority, Diaspora Africa Forum, and Osu Traditional Council honored Fletcher and Ellis in Accra with a naming ceremony. Fletcher received the name Naa Lameley. Ellis was given the name Bio Lantey. Both received certificates with their new African names.
“The naming ceremony is for our brothers and sisters to reconnect with them and welcome them back home, and also to review their identities as Africans and Ghanaians, to be precise,” Deputy Minister of Arts, Culture, and Tourism Mark Okraku Mantey said. “Ghana is a hospitable country, and I am sure you have seen places, worn Ghana, eaten Ghana, and heard Ghanaian music. Share the word that Ghanaians love people, especially Black people,” Mantey declared.