(Courtesy of the Black Wall Street Times)
Wanda J’s Next Generation is a staple in the Tulsa community, especially its Black community.
By Nehemiah Frank
TULSA, Okla. — On Friday, June 22, 2018, at 3:30 pm in the afternoon, President-elect Dr. Culver Freeman, of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, walked into Wanda J’s Next Generation restaurant, located at 111 North Greenwood Avenue in Tulsa, Oklahoma, offering Ty Walker, the restaurant owner, a new rental contract.
Prior to the June 22 date, Mr. Walker told the Black Wall Street Times that Leola McDaniels — the Chamber’s financial officer appointed in 2014 by then Chamber President Dr. Art Williams — worked with Mr. Walker on Wanda J’s new leasing agreement with the Chamber. Before that, Mr. Walker was offered a leasing contract in the fall of 2017 from the Greenwood Chamber but never signed it. Ms. McDaniels and Mr. Walker never finished the leasing agreement that they started because Ms. McDaniels would be accused of embezzling funds from the Chamber, whereby she was removed from her appointed position. Moreover, the embezzlement allegations later ran cold because Ms. McDaniels was found mysteriously unresponsive on the backseat in her pickup truck in Sapulpa, OK on July 26 and pronounced dead.
Mr. Walker informed the BWSTimes that Dr. Freeman informed him that he needed to have the contract signed by Monday, June 25, 2018. The new contract included a 100 percent increase of Wanda J’s rent that would begin on July 1, 2018.
Mr. Walker said that he couldn’t receive a leasing agreement on a Friday and return it signed that following Monday without consulting with an attorney.
“He didn’t give me enough time to speak with a lawyer,” Mr. Walker stated.
Mr. Freeman didn’t return on Monday but the very next day, on Tuesday, June 22, with an eviction notice, stating that Wanda J’s will have until September 30, 2018, to vacate the Greenwood property.
“If I didn’t agree to the 100 percent increase, I’d have to leave. I believe the lease was written in a way that isn’t beneficial to a business owner. I would be charged: trash, gas, light, water, on top of the 100 percent increase. It stated that at any given time those things could increase,” Mr. Walker said.
The Chamber’s president-elect, Dr. Culver Freeman told the BWSTimes that Mr. Walker’s claims — of the Chamber increasing Wanda J’s rent by 100 percent — are simply not true.
“They have been operating month-to-month without a lease for the past 3 years,” Dr. Freeman stated.
Dr. Freeman, also, mentioned that for the most part, the Chamber footed the bill for Wanda J’s utilities, which the Chamber considers astronomically high in comparison to the usage of the other businesses.
“They were getting too sweet of a deal,” Dr. Freemen stated.
Mr. Walker informed the BWSTimes that in the month of June, the air conditioning for his business didn’t work for nearly the entire month.
“We lost a lot of customers because the air conditioner was out. We closed our business as early as 3 or 4 PM on some days because the temperature in the restaurant was unbearable for the customers,” he explained. Mr. Walker said that he even proposed fixing the air conditioning but said that the Chamber refused his assistance.
Greenwood/Black Wall Street business owners have complained that some of the bathrooms in both buildings haven’t been fixed in years.
Dr. Freeman said that the Chamber has full-time maintenance personnel who fixes the air conditioning units. However, Dr. Freeman did mention that it took the Chamber longer than usual to get the air conditioning fixed.
“I like Wanda J’s. They have the best-fried chicken in the city. No one wants them to leave. We usually have them carter our Chamber meetings. However, they need to pay their fair share. And at the end of the day, Mr. Walker disagrees with the new leasing agreement. Therefore, they are choosing to leave Greenwood, but we would like them to stay,” Dr. Freeman stated.
Moreover, Mr. Walker expressed that he has also experienced issues with a leaking roof shortly after a rainstorm. He proposed fixing the roof, too. And again, he purports that the Chamber refused his assistance.
Greenwood/Black Wall Street business owners have complained that the roofs haven’t been fixed in years.
“We understand the need for the rent to increase because we are business owners. I understand that there is cost, so I understand that is why the rent needs to be increased. However, we want the opportunity to pay fair rent prices — a favorable contract for both parties that doesn’t include my hands being tied,” Mr. Walker said to the BWSTimes.
Wanda J’s original location is the present location of Fat Guys. They opened Wanda J’s Next Generation on Greenwood in 1991 during a time when the Greenwood District was mostly empty. In 1995 the restaurant moved out of the district. Decades later, the Greenwood Chamber convinced Wanda J’s to move back to the Greenwood District.
“They sought us out. They asked for us to come. We didn’t inquire.” Mr. Walker said. “They knew that the previous business owners would have a problem paying the rent. There is a problem with the way the Chamber does business. You have the former city councilor, Jack Henderson and you have business owners: Brandon Jackson and Henry Primeaux [Greenwood Chamber – Treasurer]. They should understand how you do business. What does their current business practices say about the type of business practices that they are running outside of the Chamber?”
Earl Perkins recently had a run in with car dealership owner and Chamber board member, Henry Primeaux. Mr. Perkins accused Mr. Primeaux of physically assaulting him in Henry Primeaux’s car dealership’s parking lot in Bixby, Oklahoma.
Photo Courtesy of Earl Perkins
Mr. Perkins isn’t the only Tulsan that has had issues with Mr. Primeaux. Early in the summer, City Councilor Blake Ewing insinuated that Henry Primeaux used racially insensitive language during a Tulsa Drillers baseball game on Facebook.
Tori Tyson, the owner of Blow Out Hair Studio’s, located next door to Wanda J’s, accused current Greenwood Chamber President Rebecca Marks — Jimerson of assaulting her. Ms. Tyson began recording when she noticed OneGas attempting to cut the building’s gas off, which the Chamber is entrusted to pay, since they are the building’s landlord.
Photo Courtesy of Tori Hall, a Black Wall Street business owner
Tensions over the past few years have caused division within the community. Last year some community members formed another chamber of commerce because they didn’t feel that the current Greenwood Chamber was living up to what the community had hoped — the Black Wall Street Chamber of Commerce.
President Sherry Gamble, of the Black Wall Street Chamber of Commerce a former member of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, made this statement:
“We are trying to rebuild Black Wall Street. We know that it will not be the same as it was during its prominence. We do want new businesses; at the same time, we want to keep the businesses that are already there. Wanda J’s restaurant is a staple for the City of Tulsa and our community. Families and friends gather there for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Money has become more important to the Greenwood Chamber than the black business. Wanda J’s Next Generation is our communities’ gathering place. Situations — like Wanda J’s — are the reason why we started the Black Wall Street Chamber of Commerce.”
Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder and executive editor of The Black Wall Street Times. He graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Oklahoma State University. A rising voice in America and an emerging leader in the education reform movement, Nehemiah frequently travels for speaking engagements around the country, is a blogger for Education Post, and has been featured on NBC as well as in Blavity and Tulsa People. Nehemiah is also a teacher at Sankofa School of the Performing Arts in Tulsa, OK, a 2017 Terence Crutcher Foundation honoree, a recipient of the 2017 METCares Foundation Community Impact Award, and a 2018 Oluko Fellow. He gave a TED Talk at The University of Tulsa in the spring of 2018.