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)

 

Always remember Rosewood, Florida

Justice

(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

(Nelson Mandela)

Happy to see the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement continue to draw attention to racial injustices.  The momentum gained after the George Floyd murder continues to lead people worldwide to protest injustices.  It feels real this time, but I thought that after Rodney King, Trayvon Martin, Eric Gardner, and Michael Brown.  Too many instances where black people are killed, and the justice system does not provide justice.  Not trying to be cute with words here but most of these examples were seen on video just like George Floyd but no justice for black victims could be found.

Would like to say these are just isolated examples and America really treats black people well.  Yep, we all know that would be a huge lie and I could not say that with a straight face anyway.  America’s majority has treated people of color horribly and then try to convince us everything is okay.  It is not and has not been okay for a long time.

Decided to go back in history and introduce Walk into the Future readers to Rosewood, Florida.  Most people have never heard about Rosewood or the horror the black families endured there.  It does not get the same press as the Black Wall Street massacre but is closer to home for me.

Sadly, I did not learn about Rosewood until the 1997 movie directed by John Singleton was released.  I grew up in Florida and never heard a word about the massacre in a history or civics class.  Rosewood is less than a two-hour drive from my hometown Jasper, Florida so it is equally shocking how close this type of mob/Klan activity was to my family.

I watched the movie and remember thinking this happened right down the street from my hometown.  How is it possible I did not know about this?  How could an entire town get wiped off the face of the earth and nobody said a word?  This appears to be the American way.  We condemn other countries and regimes for their atrocities and then hide ours from the public.

The movie stirred me to visit Rosewood in 1997 so I could see the place for myself.  Sadly, the only substantial thing to identify Rosewood is a placard to let you know you are in the place where the town of Rosewood use to be.  There are a few buildings there now but most of the things in the area are incorporated to Cedar Key, Florida.  Felt weird being at the site of a massacre of black people but believe this was an important lesson to never forget the past so these things do not repeat.  Like what is happening now; we cannot just let these injustices occur without responding in kind.

The BLM movement is here to stay, and we will need to remain vigilant to ensure human rights are respected for all.  Keep learning and growing tree branches—we need you to make this a better world!

Learn more about Rosewood, Florida here:  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/03/rosewood-florida-massacre-racial-violence-reparations

 

“The scars and stains of racism are still deeply embedded in the American society”.

(John Lewis)