Black 14: Wyoming Football legacy

“He who commits injustice is ever made more wretched than he who suffers it”.

(Plato)

My Walk into the Future for 2020 has been an interesting journey so far.  Not complaining because there are worse things in life than maintaining physical distance during a time of COVID-19.

The most interesting part has been the ability for me to find a new voice and interest in documenting injustices that are happening in plain sight in America.  The current news cycle seems to identify another racial injustice daily in America—that may be a slight exaggeration, but you may have to walk in my shoes to prove that.

My latest injustice knowledge came through a research show on ESPN titled the Black 14. I did not stop to watch the program initially because it centered around the University of Wyoming football team and I never had interest with anything in Wyoming.  Decided to sit a bit and see what the program was about since I could not make it to the beach due to bad weather—lucky me! 😊

The Black 14 were 14 black football players who were recruited to the University of Wyoming football team from every corner of America.  These players wanted to be a part of something different and chose to play football in Wyoming.  I later learned there initially were 17 black players on the team but 3 quit the team earlier.

The racial turmoil of 1969 made it out to Wyoming in the form of protests in and around the University of Wyoming campus.  The Black 14 were not part of the student organizations who protested injustices but wanted to take a stand against the racism of the Mormon church which founded Brigham Young University (BYU).

The Black 14 wanted to wear black armbands with the number 14 to signify unity when the University of Wyoming football team played against BYU.  The players decided to approach their head coach with the REQUEST to wear the arm bands during the game.  The coach saw this request from the Black 14 as a rebellion against him (white guy) and his authority. Again, the Black 14 went to ask permission to wear armbands.  Fast forward and the Black 14 were dismissed from the team because they were creating a fragmented locker room according to their coach.

Their dismissal was appealed but the Black 14 were still kicked off the team even with most of the students on-campus in support of what they wanted to do.  The Black 14 never got another chance to play for the University of Wyoming together again.  Some stayed around the campus and were let back on the team the following year.  Others made their way to smaller schools to complete their playing careers.  They never got an apology or full explanation of why they were kicked off the team.  A side note to this story is the University of Wyoming football program has never regained a national place in the college football world after the Black 14 were kicked off the team.  Karma is real!

Imagine you go to an authority figure to ask for permission for something but get kicked out for simply asking.  These men were damaged for just trying to do what others around the country could do freely.

Sadly, it took the University of Wyoming 50 years to issue a formal apology and welcome the Black 14 back to campus.  This is a start but imagine how these men felt over the past 50 years.  Happy they got their apology but makes me wonder how many other Black 14’s, Black 27’s, Black 3’s we never hear about.

2020 has proven to be my year of enlightenment and learning more about America.  There appears to be a lot left for me to learn.

“If you can’t eliminate injustice, at least tell everyone about it”.

(Shirin Ebadi)

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/black-14-kicked-wyoming-football-team-receives-apology-after-50-n1080671

 

Vote next week!

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)