Black Wall Street

hostility-sculpture-in-tulsa-3910356_1920

Hostility Sculpture in Tulsa, Oklahoma

(Image by Mike Goad from Pixabay)

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.

(Dr. Martin Luther King)

My first introduction to Black Wall Street came when I served as a panelist for a Florida State University (FSU) Black Student Union (BSU) program.  The students invited me to enhance their professional development program, but I got a history lesson I did not expect or know I needed.

I love working with college students because they bring a passion for subjects they are interested in and that passion keeps them curious and intent on growing daily. My role on the panel was to help BSU students understand how to present themselves when networking for future career opportunities.  We got that process going and had a good question and answer session with lots of input from the students in attendance.

One of the students present asked the moderator why the activities for the week was labeled Black Wall Street?  The response is where my education on the subject began.

The BSU leaders saw Black History Month as the perfect time to educate its members and guests on important periods, i.e., The Harlem Renaissance, Black Wall Street, Black Excellence and Black Power.  I was familiar with each of the periods identified for the month except Black Wall Street.  I assumed this was BSU’s way to show members how to build financial freedom and eventually make their way to Wall Street (NYC).  I was wrong and totally missed the boat on the meaning of Black Wall Street.

The BSU leadership wanted to show members how financial freedom could be gained by following the blueprint laid out by the founders of the true Black Wall Street in Greenwood, Oklahoma (Tulsa).  I had never heard of Black Wall Street, Greenwood, Oklahoma or the massacre that happened there in the early 1920’s.  My students were more than happy to fill me in on another history lesson I never received during my formal education programs—this seems to be a common theme with American history.

The concept a black town in Oklahoma was self-sufficient in the 1920’s seemed unreal at first but decided to learn more after talking with students.  I consider myself a lifelong learner and this was another educational journey I needed to fully see the great things that happened on Black Wall Street prior to the massacre.

O.W. Gurley was a prominent figure who relocated to the Greenwood district and purchased land which then could only be sold to people of color.  This was Gurley’s vision to establish a place for the black population.  Most of his businesses were frequented by black migrants fleeing the oppression of the Mississippi delta.  Gurley worked with others to pool their financial resources and support the thriving businesses being developed in Greenwood.  The residents of Black Wall Street were doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs. The success of the black residents of Greenwood played a role in the 1921 massacre because of the jealousy of their white neighbors in nearby Tulsa.

My Black Wall Street education increased my knowledge of this important period of Black History and led me to dig deeper on the actual massacre.  The news program, 60 Minutes did a report on Black Wall Street and the massacre a few years ago.  This led to additional investigations and a team has been formed to find and excavate hidden graves to bring closure for descendants of the massacre victims.  This painful piece of American history continues to garner interest and my hope is we never experience something like this again.

Learn more about what happened in Greenwood here:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/antoinegara/2020/06/18/the-bezos-of-black-wall-street-tulsa-race-riots-1921/#65183f08f321

60 Minutes program on Greenwood, Oklahoma:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yA8t8PW-OkA

“History has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own”.

(Michelle Obama)

 

The long journey home

Moving Forward Feb 2020

(Image by Bluehouse Skis from Pixabay.com)

“A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home”.

(Matthew 13:57)

There’s an area I’ve had trouble making speaking inroads since I’ve been on my Walk into the Future journey—my hometown.

Never thought my hometown would be the toughest place for me to engage, mentor and help others but it has proven to be a tough place to get invites.  The passage above is my reminder that I’m not the only one to struggle to get a message to people who know me—better folks have struggled with this same dynamic, so I guess I’m keeping great company!  It would have been easy to just give up and focus my energy into more productive environments but that would have been the simple way for me to proceed.

Perseverance requires additional tactics to reach life and professional goals—so I decided to persevere and keep moving forward on this pursuit.

Finally got the invite to speak during the MLK 2020 weekend at the MLK Banquet as the Keynote Speaker!  So, I went from seeking an opportunity in my hometown to having the honor of delivering an important message at the premier event of the weekend—no pressure! 😊

My goal when speaking is always to move the crowd.  People want to be entertained, laugh a bit and take something tangible away from these events.  The theme of the weekend was:  Progression not Regression.

Struggled a bit conducting research for the event since it was open to everyone in the community.  Different demographics, backgrounds, and denominations so I couldn’t go into the Keynote with a complete understanding of who would attend.  This freaked me out for a bit and then I decided to trust my process for building presentations—one slide at a time.

Looked at previous presentations and blog articles to see if I already had something to fit the theme of the weekend.  Nothing matched completely but I recently completed a blog article centered around positive energy in daily interactions.  Decided to use positive energy as the progression and negative energy as regression during my speech.

Dr. King’s 1963 I Have a Dream speech was future focused and still relevant in 2020.  Leveraged this information to continue to build the foundation of my presentation.  Didn’t get deep into Dr. King’s speech but wanted to use it to engage the audience since it was an MLK event.

Introduced the concept of self-awareness to help audience members get a more personal appreciation of progression and regression.  Didn’t launch a deep dive on self-awareness but wanted the audience to understand how everyone can control progression and/or regression in their lives.  Self-awareness helps eliminate roadblocks, generates an Irie (positive) mindset and thoughts to create positive outcomes.

Dr. King’s dream is still alive and believe everyone in attendance was able to discover how they can enhance progression in the community.  Really wanted them to walk out of my Keynote and seek ways to make a difference.  I left them with three questions to help seal the theme, Progression Not Regression:

  • What can you do?
  • Who can you serve?
  • What’s stopping you?

The audience response was tremendous during my entire time with them.  I feed off audience energy and participation—they brought their ‘A’ game and I didn’t want to disappoint since I’ve been trying to get on the hometown stage for years.  Extremely happy for the opportunity and proud of the effort to Keynote this amazing event.

Full disclosure had several aunts, cousins, childhood friends, teachers and my mom in the audience.  Nothing like your mom watching you work a room! 😊  Things happen for a reason and I enjoyed my time with the group.  Feedback has been great so far so hoping I’m going to receive requests to come back and move the crowd again.

Side note:  our high school librarian (retired) was in attendance.  I made a point to acknowledge her during my Keynote because she allowed me to spend most of my free time in the library with her during my high school years.  I was in there so much she let me check out books to other students like I was an employee.  This is where I gained a love for books and reading which eventually led to me pursuing a PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology years later.  Small things lead to big results!  She said all my aggravation was well worth it, now! 😊

How do you ensure positive energy (progression) in your daily interactions?  What techniques do you use to combat potential negative energy (regression)?

How will you celebrate Black History month?  Thanks!

Thanks to the Hamilton County MLK committee for putting me on!

“Home is where one starts from”.

(T.S. Eliot)

MLK 2020

 (MLK 2020 Keynote, Jasper, FL.)