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)

 

Why Black Lives Matter (BLM) matters today!

BLM

(Image by Markus Winkler from Pixabay)

“Human rights are something you were born with.  Human rights are your God-given rights. Human rights are the rights recognized by all nations on earth.  And any time anyone violates your human rights, you can take them to court”.

(Malcolm X.)

Dictionary.com defines human rights as a right that is believed to belong justifiably to every person.

Interesting to hear politicians, everyday Americans and TV news programs talk about the Constitution but most only cite the Amendments that fit a small segment of society.  A lot of folks will scream for their Second Amendment rights even though it was written when the country did not have an Army and militias were needed to defend the country.  These same folks do not make a peep when the Fourteenth Amendment is brought up.

14th Amendment cliff notes version:  No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person in its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The Fourteenth amendment seems clearer to me in today’s climate than arming a militia we do not need because we have professional armed services (Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy, Guard and Reserves).  Imagine if all Americans were treated equally as described in the Fourteenth amendment.  The world would be a better place right now.

Had a fantastic conversation with an older gentleman last week about all the things (protests, marches, etc.) going on after the death of George Floyd.  The gentleman is a retiree and he drives the customer shuttle part time for a local car dealership.  He was giving me a ride home after I dropped my vehicle off for repairs and wanted to discuss current events.  He let me know he wanted to talk with someone but did not know how to start.  He asked if I would be willing to talk with him so he would have a better understanding of current events.  Guess I made him feel comfortable because I had only been around him 10 minutes before he decided I was the chosen one to enlighten him.

He asked me two questions:

  • Why are people saying Black Lives Matter (BLM), shouldn’t all live matter?
  • Why are the confederate statues coming down so important today?

Explained to him the BLM movement is needed to highlight the injustices black people continue to face with no end in sight.  No one ever said all lives do not matter but BLM is a way to focus on people who have been marginalized, forgotten, abused, and brutalized since being brought to America.  The BLM movement keeps the continued injustices against black people in America at the forefront and signals we will not be quiet anymore.  Anyone who says All Lives Matter, White Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter have not been subjected to the same level of systemic racism, policing, sentencing, violence, government oversight and oppression as the people who need you to understand Black Live Matter!

https://blacklivesmatter.com/

I let my new friend know the confederate statues were routinely placed as racial dog whistles to a past that honored men who fought to continue slavery.  Most people do not know but a lot of these statues were put in place throughout the 1900’s.  The state of Arizona built a confederate monument in 2010.  Let me repeat that—the state of Arizona commissioned and placed a confederate monument in 2010!!!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Confederate_monuments_and_memorials

Placing these monuments in public places is a slap in the face of all Americans but is reprehensible for anyone who was subjected to slavery, cruelty and death at the hands of the men others are trying to honor with a heritage claim.  Does Germany or Japan have statues of American Generals who fought against their countries?  What would they think having to walk by statues of these people daily?

The confederates who are depicted by the statues fought against America!  They would be considered enemies if they were from a different country or race.  They were traitors against the American government and fought to keep black people as slaves, but some people want to hide behind a heritage claim for why these statues should remain.  They are a part of history but should not be given a higher regard than true American heroes who did not become traitors against their country.  Confederate generals, soldiers, sympathizers, and apologists are traitors to the American way of life.  Who would claim being a traitor as a heritage to be proud of?

My new friend and I departed after having a great conversation.  I am happy he felt comfortable enough to want to talk with me.  He let me know he would talk with his grand kids later that day to help them understand everything happening around them and become a better BLM ally.  Smalls steps on this journey!

Who can you help understand the BLM movement?  What support do you need to keep the conversation moving forward?

 “It’s a privilege to educate yourself about racism instead of experiencing it”.

(Sir John)