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Unless we take control of our community, their social machine will inevitably crush us to non-existence with no trace Black Wall Street ever existed.
By Founder and Executive Editor Nehemiah D. Frank
Black Tulsa, now is the time for every Black citizen in Greenwood (e.g., North Tulsa) to ask themselves this difficult question.
This personal, thought-provoking inquiry — if directed inwardly towards our African hearts — should either inspire us to collective action, which is one of the facets our brilliant ancestors used to develop the legendary and awe-inspiring Black Wall Street, or we shall succumb to the natural forces of today’s hegemonic system.
The system, which has unapologetically pushed us out of our beloved district, will inevitably crush us to non-existence with no trace that the Timbuktu of the modern western world ever existed.
So, the question is:
Are we serious about saving, preserving, and building our community?
Because, if we are not:
We will become like Egypt: completely invaded, fictitiously integrated, academically whitewashed, and lost to the sands of time.
There will soon be no evidence that an economic black Mecca ever existed amid Tulsa’s age of apartheid.
Many white allies, in the city and across the country, have nobly devoted themselves to our cause and have aided in passing along the story of how the massacre momentarily silenced us.
However, the current condition of gentrification and the negative impact of desegregation coupled with the state’s brutal hunger for mass incarceration continues to cripple are community.
Sadly, many of our white allies and supporters do not understand the true gravity of our complaints.
Since the days of sitting with Clara Luper demanding that whites serve blacks at lunch counters and then standing, a decade later, with Dr. King in support of ending the Jim Crow laws in our state (which notably was the first law of the state’s history), we have been fighting for equal status for quite sometime.
However, we irrationally handed our future to the very people that burned our civilization to the ground; citizens who once passed laws forbidding us to appear more educated or of a higher economic class than whites in public.
We allowed white supremacy into the minds of our black children when we sent them to schools with teachers who don’t live in their own community and didn’t respect them. We sent our black kids to schools, when white teachers and white parents pulled their own children away from Dr. King’s dream for fear they would have a black teacher or be placed in a majority black school.
White Tulsans chose to stay in their neighborhoods in the ’60s, and when we became neighbors, they moved to Jenks, Broken Arrow, and Owasso. They instead decided to live in a majority white or all white neighborhood than live in a fully integrated society.
The majority of our black children are not being pushed to their highest potential. The advanced classes are not implemented enough at Tulsa Public Schools; further, we don’t see enough black children in advanced placement classes, especially at Booker T.
We have the appearance of integration in the mayor’s office.
We have the appearance of integration at Tulsa Public Schools’ headquarters.
We have the appearance of an integrated police force and fire department.
Yet, the machine of white superiority in the city remains and is evident when one looks at the city council and the city’s legal department.
Today, it is clear that the black golden era of Greenwood has ended upon the fictitious integration of our society.
Presently, we cling to a fabricated narrative that boasts progress when in reality our children attend schools that continue to teach the history of how the white victors trumped and slaughtered those who stood in their way, had something of value, or posed as a potential threat to the white status quo in the city.
Nothing has changed for Tulsa’s African-American community.
We have to face the reality that we have made little to no progress since integration in this city.
We support white business, but they did not support our businesses in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, 2000s, and in the present day. They continue to not support our businesses today, which is the key factor of our struggle and present decline.
The state even went so far as to repeal affirmative action laws, which came as a detriment to our black contractors.
Furthermore, the former Brady District still boasts a street named “Brady.” The powers that be didn’t even have enough moral integrity to fully change the name of the street.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. symbolically ends at the Frisco Railroad tracks, where it was once nearly illegal for any black person to cross the tracks without permission or permits.
Why didn’t the White city officials want to embrace Dr. King’s Dream by extending the street through to south Tulsa?
They built a freeway over our business district — insidious and clever. Another strategy that ended our progress.
Today, White Tulsa is seemingly uninterested in embracing the rich history of Greenwood for two reasons:
First, the city doesn’t want to fan the ashes nor the dust that holds the very remains of our ancestors because the City of Tulsa is still responsible for the massacre to this day.
Second, it isn’t their history. The history belongs to us. Yet, for some reason, we continue to allow them to control the narrative of our history. We continue to allow senators, both Black and White, to continuously walk the tracks declaring that what happened in 1921 was a “Race Riot” or “Riot-Massacre”.
After all, what is a “Riot-Massacre”?
It is either one or the other.
One cannot be morally righteous by trying to be political strategic and compromising the history of the worst massacre of black U.S. citizens, in which the city knowingly played a role in.
We cannot compromise on what the truth really is because in doing so we commit a sin towards God, and we spit in the faces of the very people that lost their lives.
Their ashes remain in the dust and the earth that gentrification bulldozes for a fabricated idea when we haven’t laid the foundation for true reconciliation, which starts with educating all students in our city on the 1921 Tulsa Massacre.
Why are we allowing the teaching of the massacre to be an option in public schools? How are we to build better race relations if white parents and white teachers have the option of deciding that perhaps it’s too much for their kids to learn about or they don’t want them carrying white guilt? What then?
History has a way of repeating itself in different forms.
Only the truth can set us free and bring about real, tangible reconciliation.
We must decide to make the educational policy changes needed that will leave a long-lasting, positive impact on our society as a whole.
Remember your ancestors; what they were able to accomplish, the courage that they embodied, and know, you are still Black Wall Street.
Nehemiah D. Frank is the Founder & Executive Editor of the Black Wall St. Times. Frank is also the Co-Executive Producer of the “Dominic Durant Sports Show.” Frank graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL in General Studies, and earned a 2nd degree in Political Science from Oklahoma State University. He is highly involved in community activism, a middle school teacher, a blogger for Education Post, and dedicates most of his time to empowering and uplifting his community. Frank is a 2017 Terence Crutcher Foundation Honoree and has been featured on NBC, Blavity, and Tulsa People.