So Viola Fletcher, who is 107, and her brother, Hughes Van Ellis, who is 100, boarded a plane in August and flew 6,300 miles from Oklahoma to Ghana.
It isn’t just their ages and the distance they traveled that made the trip remarkable. It’s who they are: two of the three oldest known survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre who are still alive.
They’d been invited to Ghana to be recognized for what they endured a century ago and to celebrate the African roots of their resilience.
The siblings were greeted by royalty and met with the nation’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, who granted them Ghanaian citizenship and gave Fletcher a plot of land in the capital city, Accra.
“Medaase,” Fletcher said, using a Ghanaian dialect for “thank you,” during a meeting with the president, “We accept it with great joy, and we thank the president for this great honor.”
Several ceremonies yielded a bounty of honors: At one, she was crowned a queen mother. In another, dressed in white, she received a new name, “Naa Lamiley,” which in another Ghanaian dialect means, “Somebody who is strong. Somebody who stands the test of time.”
She received a red, bejeweled crown displaying another of her new names, “Ebube Ndi Igbo.” From the Ga Kingdom in Ghana, she received the name “Naa Yaoteley” Fletcher, which means “the first female child in a family or bloodline.”
Ellis, also known as “Uncle Redd,” received honors of his own. He was made a chief and presented by the Palace of Eze Ndi Igbo Ghana with the new name of “Ike Ohe Ndi Igbo,” meaning “Strength of the Igbo.” Ellis also received the name “Nii Lante,” by the Osu Traditional Council, meaning “Loves helping other people because he has a kind heart.”