Just like many others, I was never taught about Black entrepreneurs, investors or inventors in school. The advancements made by this group were never mentioned in my African-American Studies honor class in high school, and I always wondered why.
Similarly, I wasn’t introduced to Black Wall Street until about three years ago. I heard the term used throughout rap music, especially in The Game’s lyrics, but never knew it was a real place. When I started to research the history of Black Wall Street I had mixed emotions, amazement, hurt and anger. I wondered how I would feel if I visited The Black Wall Street Memorial in person.
How and why was this part of American history, and more importantly African-American history so forgotten? We always see African-Americans portrayed throughout media as slaves, athletes or musicians, but many of the stories we see showcase us in subservient roles.
Why and when are we going to take more pride and ownership in the stories we tell the next generation? How will we show that it is possible for us to become multi-millionaires and billionaires outside of playing sport? I’m not knocking playing sports, but sports and music shouldn’t be the main examples of how African-Americans can be successful. We have the ability to invent new technologies, patent new ideas, license technology for products we use daily, and build disruptive businesses that change how we live and think today. We’ve done many of these things in our past, but most of us still don’t know or realize this.
While on orders as a member of the U.S. Navy Reserves, I was able to plan a trip to the Black Wall Street Memorial in Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood neighborhood. I used Google Maps to plan out the distance to Tulsa, which was roughly 1.5 hours away from my current location.
After searching, three items immediately stood out to me:
- Osage County didn’t seem like a traditional American-named county
- Pawhuska was the seat held by Osage County, which sounded as if it had Native America origins
- The location of Black Wall Street resided was further north from the capital of Oklahoma.
As a resident of Austin, TX, I immediately thought that the location of Black Wall Street showed signs of gentrification.
Could this be true? Stay tuned for the next piece in this series.