You may have seen the term "Black Wall Street Muskegon" floating around. It's a snappy slogan and all and it's pretty clear as to the idea that you'll find people of color working to show off what they make or do in a shop or a home setting, maybe their restaurant or their shop. The reality is, that "Black Wall Street" is a term that was long lost to history and in it's return to the top of people's minds once again, it's time to shine a light on something most of us were never made aware of. We know history, but no where near enough of it and sadly, the worst of our history often gets buried. Such in the case in Greenwood Oklahoma.
Greenwood was a successful and self sustaining district in Tulsa. It was a post slavery community of African American decedents and they lived a good life and supported all they did by working with one another. Doctors, lawyers, educators, clergy, shop keepers, bankers and more all made a perfectly good living and were stable in their economy. In 1921, there was an accusation that a young black boy whistled at a white woman. Nothing more than an accusation. The result was a moment of national shame that should be taught in every school. A white mob stormed the community and 24 hours destroyed what took years to build. Over the course of three days, 35 blocks of profitable business, homes that were owned, and people that were loved were destroyed. While the numbers vary, the reality of it is that more than 300 were killed and put in mass graves and a year later, the Ku Klux Klan rode through Greenwood in celebration. WIKIPEDIA
The reboot of the term "Black Wall Street" in today's world is a vision of those younger that have seen the pain of generations and lived it as well, but the idea of shrugging it off and saying "well, what about us"....it's done. Black Wall Street today is about education, support and faith in rebuilding what was to be stronger and more successful as it would have been had our society been what it should have been all those years ago. Equality takes nothing away from one or the other, equality means that the chance is there and leading up to that chance, creating opportunity is what Black Wall Street is about. In June they have the Black Wall Street Business Expo at the VanDyk Mortgage Center, with over 80 vendors and in the fall, they hold the "Mind Your Black Owned Business" competition.
You've seen the pitch competitions. Shark Tank etc. The idea is for those who own a business to learn the process of pitching themselves to investors to build their brand, abilities and their confidence in what they believe can be the next big thing. Participants are being taught right now by mentors that work to share their experience to foster future generations of entrepreneurs that will one day be able to stand on their own as business owners, and become employers and economic drivers themselves. This is a new generation of young leaders who are willing to stand up, share knowledge and help others understand that we all rise together. It's a remarkable circle of people to be among.
Lashae Simmons II invited us down to learn more about the pitch competition coming up. It's happening at Muskegon Community College on November 21st and the 5 finalists will be working to earn a $5000 prize for their vision of their business and how the plan to go forth and succeed.
As mentioned in the video, I personally found it shocking that I was in my late 40's until I found out this awful piece of American History. It's not a matter of what was heard or maybe seen. This is a harsh reality that almost anyone would want buried. From tragedy, can we find triumph? Let's watch a younger generation rise and let's rise together. We are turning corners in Muskegon and across the nation daily, and to know that we're out front and leading that change, THAT is what defines us as a community.
Below, you'll find the snippet referred to in the video by Andy. It's courtesy of The Smithsonian Channel and it's program America in Color.