In August, 107-year-old Viola Fletcher and her brother Hughes Van Ellis, 100, traveled 6,300 miles from Oklahoma to Accra, Ghana, to participate in ceremonies honoring them as survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre.
The siblings were children when a white mob terrorized the all-Black Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa on May 31, 1921, one of the country’s most affluent Black communities at that time. The city’s Black business district was destroyed and hundreds were killed.
As two out of the three known survivors of the tragedy, Fletcher and Ellis’s trip followed the 100th anniversary of the massacre. The remaining third of the trio, 106-year-old Lessie Randle, “declined an invitation to go on the trip but said she would be there in spirit,” according to the Associated Press.
The AP reported that the all-expenses-paid adventure was co-sponsored by Our Black Truth, “a Virginia-based social media platform,” and the Diaspora Africa Forum in Ghana. The two traveled with several other family members, and the outlet expressed that going to Ghana was a way of fulfilling a “lifelong dream” Fletcher and Ellis shared.
The Washington Post reported that the trip was also a way to celebrate “the African roots of their reslience.”
Throughout their time in the West African country, the siblings met Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo. They were each granted Ghanaian citizenship, and Viola received a plot of land in Accra, the nation’s capital. The two also experienced various ceremonies, including a traditional naming ceremony where they were honored with different names from some of the country’s tribes. Fletcher was honored with a red, jewel-crusted crown and the title of Queen Mother, while Ellis was given the title of Chief.
One of Fletcher’s assigned names, “Naa Yaoteley,” was given to her from the Ga Kingdom. According to The Post, it translates to “the first female child in a family or bloodline.”
The outlet detailed that Ellis said visiting Ghana was like “going back home after the trip. The peace and the quiet. It was overwhelming. I felt like a king. It made me so proud to be there.”
“It was wonderful,” Fletcher said from her perspective. “Seems like they knew us. If I was younger, I would go back.”
The 107-year-old testified in Congress in support of reparations for Tulsa Race Massacre survivors in May.