We are hearing so much about the Tulsa, Oklahoma race massacre that occurred May 31 – June 1, 1921. It’s been 100 years since it happened and so many people are raising awareness about the atrocity at the hands of a White American mob/White supremacists group. The White mob attacked residents, homes, and businesses in the predominantly Black Greenwood community. Despite many of the details never being disclosed until recent years, hundreds of people were killed and thousands were left homeless.
What did they destroy though?
The Tulsa “Black Wall Street” was started with a wealthy Black landowner, O.W. Gurley purchased 40 acres of land in Tulsa, naming it Greenwood after a town in Mississippi, according to Tulsa Historical Society and Museum. He had the original concept of FUBU, meaning he had the vision in 1906 to create something FOR US, BY US!
He began to help other Black people start businesses and other entrepreneurs followed and many Black people heard of the opportunities and went there to find success. They believed that economic progress was possible if Black people pooled their resources.
Greenwood Ave, had all the things of a thriving community, businesses, doctor offices, and even a school system. People still worked outside the community but brought the money they earned back into it. According to an article on history.com, it was believed in the Greenwood community that every dollar would change hands 19 times before it left the community.
One component that you may realize is very significant to this publication was the creation of the Tulsa Star, which was a Black-owned newspaper that regularly informed Africa Americans about their legal rights and any court rulings or legislation that was beneficial or harmful to their community.
To sum it all up they used their resources and built a thriving economy before it was all destroyed by White terrorists.
How can this resonate with us now?
I have always known about successful Black communities, being from Chicago and learning how our people were capable of building wealth and thriving in communities like Bronzeville and Grand Boulevard. I also learned that every time we do it, it’s destroyed, but I never believed that the hate and destruction were enough to keep us from not doing it again, and again and again!!!!
So where do we start! First, let’s define economic development: for us, Black people it means creating and building upon wealth in communities that we can pass on to generations to continue to do the same. An example being Greenwood in Tulsa. Even if we do not live in these communities. We should start spending and investing in the businesses within them. The goal is to improve the economy for Black people, the politics of Black people, and the social well-being of Black people.
Now, let’s be clear. This is not a way to segregate us. This is a way to build us up so that we can live in a world equally.
GOALS IN ESTABLISHING ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT:
- Learn historically what was done
- Decide how we can apply what was done to our communities
- How do we establish wealth among us, what resources do we already have
- What are some areas that are establishing that we can invest in throughout the country
- Who are the regional resources for media that we can look to for information