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)

 

Hire character, train skill

Hire Character

(Image by Ziglar.com)

“Good character improves every aspect of a person’s life”.

(John C. Maxwell)

Inspirations for Walk into the Future articles come to me from multiple sources.  I generate most of the topics based on things I am doing or interested in.  I continually ask my friends and tree branches to send me suggestions then work to develop their input into an article for others to learn from.

This post is unique because it has taken years to get to a place where I can develop this topic.  My extra inspiration came from one of my closet friends when she texted me a picture that said Hire character, train skill.  Believe it or not but I have been saying and using these words over the years when I need to hire someone to join my team.  Just never developed it out to highlight the importance of this concept.

The hiring processing is an ongoing concept for me.  I learned a long time ago to anticipate future openings and have adequate bench players (basketball term) available.  My first action is to create a professional development program to enhance current team members’ knowledge, so they are promotion ready.  A lot of organizations state they hire from within, but this is impossible if you are not actively training your staff.  My goal has always been to prepare staff to take over for me if I am not there.  This has led to staff being attractive to other organizations and I am thrilled to serve as a professional reference for my folks if they need it.  Happy to report 5 out of 11 members from my Florida State University Employer Relations team held Director or Associate Director titles for the 2019 – 2020 academic year.  Immensely proud of my crew and the great things they are getting done.  They are all high character people and wanted to learn daily.  They were also quick to apply their new knowledge within the work environment.

My second action is to build relationships with people in my industry through networking and conference attendance.  This allows me to identify people who will fit within my team structure if I have an opening.  I offer direct mentorship to these folks to help them grow their careers at their current locations.  I make a point to let a select few know I would like them to work on my team if an opening exists.  Please note, some of these people may not be looking or interested in the current location but it helps to put out feelers before there is a need to hire someone. Again, character is a major part of this outreach effort.

My third action is to never eliminate someone simply because their background and experiences may not line up perfectly with the job description.  Nothing I have done professionally is rocket science and someone with the right character can be trained for the work I perform.  The character of the hire should enhance the overall performance of the team and bring some unique talents to make us better.  It helps to bring in someone who has diverse thoughts, background, and experiences so we can learn from them as well.  Maintaining a solid organizational training program provides the foundation needed to bring someone in with less on paper experience and gets them up to speed on the operational pace needed for success.  I would rather invest the time to train someone with the character needed for success than bring in someone with paper skills, no integrity, teamwork, or ability to make the team better.  I have seen these folks destroy the team dynamic and it takes a long time to recover. Energy vampires!

I cannot say I have gotten this process right 100% of the time but I have more successful character hires than not.  I continue to learn and evolve my hiring practices but hire for character, train for skill remains the foundation for me.

Look at the current national leadership model to understand the importance of character in the work environment!  The lack of character can destroy organizations from within.

What is your hiring philosophy?  How has it evolved over the years?  Thanks!

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow.  The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing”.

(Abraham Lincoln)