Pastor Michael “Mike” Todd and Transformation Church have given over $1 million in “reparations” for the Tulsa Race Massacre, including $600,000 to remaining survivors of the 1921 racist campaign that left hundreds dead.
“God is a God of reparations,” Todd said to the outdoor crowd on Sunday, June 20. The Relationship Goals author added that he believes “God, not government,” will restore.
Acknowledging the buzzworthy nature of the word, Todd said that reparations are not political and should not be safeguarded by the “left” or “right.” Rather, he says the definition of reparations is, “the action of repairing something that was devastated.”
He added that God told him that the Church should be at the forefront of repairing and restoring what has been broken in the world.
“Reparations means that somebody is going to take up the mantle and actually put into action the process of repairing something that was destroyed,” Todd said. “If God is the God of reparations and restoration…and I’m one of God’s people…then I am responsible for being a part of restoring what has been torn down.”
The megachurch pastor called up each local organization one at a time and presented their representatives with a check.
Build in Tulsa, an entrepreneurship venture dedicated to rebuilding Black Wall Street, was awarded $50,000. The Greenwood Cultural Center, which serves the town that was destroyed during the massacre, was given $100,000. The Oasis Fresh Foundation, which opened a grocery store in what The Black Wall Street Times calls a “food desert,” was also gifted $100,000.
“We have been looking for someone to restore what they do not have the anointing to restore. This was not their job, it’s our job,” Todd said.
Referencing the biblical story of Nehemiah, who rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem, he said God told him: “The hand that usually tears it down is rarely the hand that builds it back up.”
“We’re gonna start reparations right here,” he added.
Kneeling before the three remaining survivors of the massacre—Viola Fletcher, 107 years old; Hughes Van Ellis, 100 years old; and Lessie Randle, 106 years old—Todd expressed his gratitude.
“Thank you for living a life that survived the devastation. Thank you for appearing before Congress. Thank you for standing up. Thank you for being here today,” he said.
“Because of you, this is able to happen,” he told them while pointing to the Transformation Church congregation.
“I’m a young Black man who took over a church from a White man who built it in North Tulsa. That couldn’t have happened if you all didn’t survive,” Todd went on to say. “Today, we can’t restore everything that has been stolen from you. But today, we can put a seed in the ground.”
In revealing his thought process behind giving $200,000 to each survivor, Todd said that one of the most devastating things that happened a century ago was the loss of their homes.
“How in the world do you rebuild when you go to sleep on a Thursday, and on the Friday, all your memories, all your life savings, everything that you built your life for is in rubble in front of you? And you got to go to the fairgrounds and stay on cots and try to rebuild your life from ashes,” he said. “I read in the Bible where it says God is the only one that gives beauty from ashes.”
So when he learned the median price for a home in Tulsa was about $200,000, Todd said he knew what he had to do.
In another touching moment, the married pastor and father turned to a woman standing beside Randle’s wheelchair. After confirming that she was Randle’s granddaughter, he asked, “So what was taken from her, was taken from you?” She nodded.
“Yeah, this ain’t on the schedule, but… she’s going to get $100,000 as well,” he said. Todd turned back to the jubilant crowd before shouting, “It’s reparations season! Everything that the enemy stole, he’s got to give it back!”
In the early morning hours of May 31-June 1, 1921, a White mob stormed the town of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which was home to a thriving Black mecca commonly referred to as Black Wall Street. The mob was reportedly set off by false rumors that a young Black man had assaulted a White woman in an elevator. Most of Greenwood was burned and destroyed, displacing about 10,000 Black residents and amounting to millions of dollars of losses by today’s standards. It is estimated by some that up to 300 people died as a result of the violence.
Survivors and their legal team filed a lawsuit against the city in 2020 demanding reparations as well as a seed gift for a reparation coalition fund. Among the plaintiffs were Historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church. The lawsuit reveals that the church, “founded in 1905, is the only standing Black-owned structure from the Historic Black Wall Street era and the only edifice that remains from the Massacre. Vernon’s sanctuary burned in the Massacre. The basement was the only part of the red brick building that remained.”