If anyone truly believes that the attack on the federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma was the most tragic bombing ever to take place on United States soil, then they’re wrong — plain and simple. That’s because an even deadlier bomb occurred in that same state nearly 95 years ago. Many people in high places would like to forget that it ever happened.
Searching under the heading of “riots,” “Oklahoma” and “Tulsa” in current editions of the World Book Encyclopedia, there is conspicuously no mention whatsoever of the Tulsa race riot of 1921, and this omission is by no means a surprise, or a rare case. The fact is, one would also be hard-pressed to find documentation of the incident, let alone and accurate accounting of it, in any other “scholarly” reference or American history book.
That’s precisely the point that noted author, publisher and orator Ron Wallace, a Tulsa native, sought to make when he began researching this riot, one of the worst incidents of violence ever visited upon people of African descent. Ultimately joined on the project by colleague Jay Wilson of Los Angeles, the duo found and compiled indisputable evidence of what they now describe as “a Black holocaust in America.”
The date was June 1, 1921, when “Black Wall Street,” the name fittingly given to one of the most affluent all-Black communities in America, was bombed from the air and burned to the ground by mobs of envious whites. In a period spanning fewer than 12 hours, a once thriving 36-Black business district in northern Tulsa lay smoldering–a model community destroyed, and a major African-American economic movement resoundingly defused.
The night’s carnage left some 300 African Americans dead, and over 600 successful businesses lost. Among these were 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores and two movie theaters, plus a hospital, a bank, a post office, libraries, schools, law offices, a half dozen private airplanes and even a bus system. As could have been expected the impetus behind it all was the infamous Ku Klux Klan, working in consort with ranking city officials, and many other sympathizers.
In their self-published book, Black Wall Street: A Lost Dream, and its companion video documentary, Black Wall Street: A Black Holocaust in America!, the authors have chronicled for the very first time in the words of area historians and elderly survivors what really happened there on that fateful summer day in 1921 and why it happened. Wallace similarly explained to me why this bloody event from the turn of the century seems to have had a recurring effect that is being felt in predominately Black neighborhoods even to this day.
The best description of Black Wall Street, or Little Africa as it was also known, would be liken it to a mini-Beverly Hills. It was the golden door of the Black community during the early 1900s, and it proved that African Americans had successful infrastructure. That’s what Black Wall Street was all about.
The dollar circulated 36 to 100 times, sometimes taking a year for currency to leave the community. Now in 1995, a dollar leaves the Black community in 15-minutes. As far as resources, there were Ph.D.’s residing in Little Africa, Black attorneys and doctors. One doctor was Dr. Berry who owned the bus system. His average income was $500 a day, a hefty pocket change in 1910.
During that era, physicians owned medical schools. There were also pawn shops everywhere, brothels, jewelry stores, 21 churches, 21 restaurants and two movie theaters. It was a time when the entire state of Oklahoma had only two airports, yet six Blacks owned their own planes. It was a very fascinating community.
The area encompassed over 600 businesses and 36 square blocks with a population of 15,000 African Americans. And when the lower-economic Europeans looked over and saw what the Black community created, many of them were jealous. When the average student went to school on Black Wall Street, he wore a suit and tie because of the morals and respect they were taught at a young age.
The mainstay of the community was to educate every child. Nepotism was the one word they believed in. And that’s what we need to get back to in 1995. The main thoroughfare was Greenwood Avenue, and it was intersected by Archer and Pine Streets. From the first letters in each of those three names, you get G.A.P., and that’s where the renowned R and B music group the Gap Band got its name. They’re from Tulsa.
Black Wall Street was a prime example of the typical Black community in America that did businesses, but it was in an unusual location. You see, at the time, Oklahoma was set aside to be a Black and Indian state. There were over 28 Black townships there. One third of the people who traveled in the terrifying “Trail of Tears” alongside the Indians between 1830 to 1842 were African Americans.
The citizens of this proposed Indian and Black state chose an African American governor, a treasurer from Kansas named McDade. But the Ku Klux Klan said that if he assumed office that they would kill him within 48 hours. A lot of Blacks owned farmland, and many of them had gone into the oil business. The community was so tight and wealthy because they traded dollars hand-to-hand, and because they were dependent upon one another as a result of the Jim Crow laws.
It was not unusual that if a resident’s home accidentally burned down, it could be rebuilt within a few weeks by neighbors. This was the type of scenario that was going on day- to-day on Black Wall Street. When Blacks intermarried into the Indian culture, some of them received their promised ’40 acres and a mule’ and with that came whatever oil was later found on the properties.
Just to show you how wealthy a lot of African Americans were, there was a banker in the neighboring town who had a wife named California Taylor. Her father owned the largest cotton gin west of the Mississippi [River]. When California shopped, she would take a cruise to Paris every three months to have her clothes made.
There was also a man named Mason in nearby Wagner County who had the largest potato farm west of the Mississippi. When he harvested, he would fill 100 boxcars a day. Another brother not far away had the same thing with a spinach farm. The typical family then was five children or more, though the typical farm family would have 10 kids or more who made up the nucleus of the labor.
On Black Wall Street, a lot of global business was conducted. The community flourished from the early 1900s until June 1, 1921. That’s when the largest massacre of non-military Americans in the history of this country took place, and it was lead by the Ku Klux Klan. Imagine walking out of your front door and seeing 1,500 homes being burned. Survivors we interviewed think that the whole thing was planned because during the time that all of this was going on, white families with their children stood around the borders of their community and watched the massacre, the looting and everything–much in the same manner they would watch a lynching.
Oddly, there is more awareness of the event in other countries than in the U.S.
America is a country where practically anything is possible with the right money behind you.
Black Americans’ spending power in this country is presently valued at approximately $1.1 trillion dollars annually. Yes trillion, with a “T”, per year.
In the wake of the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown, Jr., frustration, anger and grief abound. The failing of the system struck a different nerve this time. Another Black life, instantly devalued by the system of so-called justice in this country.
People are now struggling with the questions of “What can be done?” “How can we make them hear us?” Many are expressing their discontentment with rallies and marches, raising their fists and voices to the sky in an effort to be heard. What long-term plan could we enact to actually make a palpable change? Thoughts have turned to boycotts, the historic action of those that feel oppressed by a system greater than they. With Black Friday coming up, it seems as easy a target as any.
This is why there’s a movement for #BlackOutBlackFriday. Green is still the MOST important color in this country, and on Black Friday there needs to be less of it floating around. Websites like BlackOutFriday.org, and hashtags like #NotOneDime (created by Rahiel Tesfamariam of Urban Cusp) are asking people to boycott big retailers. People are committing to keeping their cash, and if they do go shopping, they only shop with Black-owned businesses or small businesses. By hitting big retailers on one of the busiest and most profitable days of their fiscal year, we can send the message that we are not happy.
We’re asking that Black Friday be the START of a boycott on buying NON-ESSENTIAL items from big retailers, for as long as it takes, until certain demands and changes in legislation regarding Police activity are met. Food, toiletries necessary for everyday grooming and hygiene, and fuel are exempt. Everything else? If you MUST buy it, buy it from a local business, small business, or Black business. This way, not only are we showing corporations that our dollars matter, we are infusing businesses that actually need the money with capital.
What do we want? Police reform. But we recognize that’s a big ask and will take time. But we can accept a good faith measure. Body cameras on police officers is the perfect measure. It defends those officers who are living up to their oath to protect and serve and shines a bright light on those who do not, allowing for just and appropriate action.
The tactical goal of the boycott is to get support and backing from the companies in our communities as we push for this important reform.
The strategic goal is to remind us as a community what our power is. We are not helpless within this system, held at the whim of a political and social structure that devalues us. We have value. We even have value that they recognize and need, aka our spending power. Let’s direct that power to those entities that build up our communities, not those that stand silently as we’re taken down.
The Ferguson decision is the impetus, but not the solitary reason, for the call to boycott Black Friday shopping this year. The onslaught of Black men, women and children losing their lives to overzealous, mostly white officers who are not being held accountable has many people fed up with the state of affairs.
There are the dissenters who are asking “WHAT FOR?” and stating, “Boycotts don’t work!” or “One day won’t do a damn thing! I’m getting my Beats Headphones, bruh, FOH.” Then there are those willing to consider it, but asking, “How does this work?” “What does this do for us?” Well, let’s talk about why #BlackOutBlackFriday matters and why it’s worth doing.
- Dollars pay for retailers’ political interests
Lobbyists influence legislation on behalf of others, and many groups use them to get policies they want enacted. They compel congressmen to vote in whatever way they want, and this is not a secret nor is it illegal. On the contrary, it is a general practice in American (and other countries) government.
Lobbyists have the access and insider influence to steer conversations toward certain agendas, spin the media, and create a following for certain causes This is why they can be used to our advantage during a boycott. If we present legislative demands that require fulfillment in order to bring our business back to certain retailers, corporations will pay lobbyists to get it done, in order to maintain their business’ profits.
- Black Friday is the single most profitable shopping day of the year.
Many retailers go from being in the red (loss) to being in the black (profit) on Black Friday hence the name. If people refuse to spend on this day and beyond, companies will take a huge hit. Many businesses make anywhere from 25-50% of their yearly revenue during the holiday season alone and if big retailers lost that, they would be very interested in finding ways to get it back.
- Black people drive the economy
We shop. We buy. We spend money.
Black people set trends in this country, no matter how much columbusing tries to erase that fact. From fashion to music, we are the progenitors of trends, and we support them with our hard earned dollars. This provides retailers with big boosts of income, especially during the holiday season when everyone wants the “hot new thing” and gift giving centers around it.
Now is actually the perfect time to make a tangible impact so let’s take a stand. We possess the spending power to make change possible if we are steadfast, deliberate, and committed.
The question is, are we?
*Article originally published on The Grio.
As I think about the type of man that I want to be with and the qualities I would like for him to have, I wonder whether or not I have the qualities that he would want. I do believe that just about every woman has some wifely qualities in her but are they the right ones? I would love to not have a “perfect man” but I man who is “perfect for me”, even though I’m not perfect.
I want a man who is –
Good with money: As the potential head of my household I want a man who is responsible with his own finances. I want a man who knows how to make money and protect the income that we have together. I want a man who not just saves money but is also financially savvy even though I’ve had my share of money problems.
Able to fix stuff: A man who knows how to fix things is sexy. Fix the toilet, change my flat tire, own a toolbox, anything – I like it! I believe that a man should know how to repair things but as a woman I’m not so good at housekeeping. I don’t like to clean & only do it out of necessity. I know a woman should be domesticated but cleaning isn’t really my forte.
Interesting: I am strongly attracted to a man that I find interesting & intellectually stimulating. And even though I’m pretty good at holding up my end of the conversation, when it comes right down to it I’m not always very exciting.
Attractive: I like men who are polished and well put together. Now, I don’t want him spending more time in the mirror than I do, but I think it is important to look as good as you feel. I like a dapper looking dude even though I’m not always looking my best every time I leave the house.
A good listener: What woman doesn’t like a man who listens? Yes, I know we women talk a lot but it’s great to be with someone who is an active listener. But as much as I talk, I don’t always like to pay attention. I get bored when the conversation isn’t interesting enough.
Romantic: What woman doesn’t like a little romance? I expect a little romance every now & again, but I’m not very romantic myself. Why you ask? I’ve always thought romance should primarily fall on the man so that’s never really something I’ve put too much effort into.
Sane: There are a lot of weirdo’s out there so it’s not easy to find & connect with somebody who is not crazy! I am moody but I chalk that up to being a woman. J
Even tempered: I don’t want a man with a bad temper or someone that I have to argue with all the time. I have my own attitude but I chalk that up to being a Black woman. J
A Gentleman: I like a man that opens my door (actually, that’s a requirement) & gives me compliments, even though I’m not always lady-like. For example, I talk about my menstrual cycle sometimes and have been known to put my feet up on the dashboard when I’m sitting on the passenger side.