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TULSA, Okla. — Sherry Gamble-Smith is the founding president of the Black Wall Street Chamber of Commerce, established in March 2018.
Gamble-Smith told the Black Wall Street Times that the Chamber was created as a result of multiple black business owners in Tulsa requesting the establishment of a new black business chamber that would better advocate for the black business community.
According to Chamber’s website, its mission is to “create and build the quality of life and business opportunities for the African American community through business education, African American cultural values, legislative advocacy, and economic development.”
Its goal “is to enhance the quality of life for African Americans and the North Tulsa community through economic development, education, workforce development, community development, and legislative advocacy. Through our active membership, we provide benefits that will not only help cultivate [their] members but also help the community grow.”
Gamble-Smith explained: “We established it because the community was asking for a chamber that can advocate for their business, specifically, the black business community. In addition to that, we definitely wanted to make sure that the African American community is actively a part of what’s happening in our city of Tulsa.”
“Our community, our district, the Greenwood District and the north Tulsa community, and the African American community wants to make sure that we have our foot in the game,” she added.
If you’re familiar with the ongoing politics of black Tulsa, you know that prior to the establishment of the Black Wall Street Chamber of Commerce, another chamber had already been established. The historic Greenwood Chamber of Commerce was established in 1938 and is still operating today. Black business owners throughout the city, however, felt their needs weren’t being met by the Greenwood Chamber; thus, the Black Wall Street Chamber of Commerce was established.
Gamble-Smith said, “We’re really excited about the different programs and opportunities we’re able to provide our community. We’ve assisted with advertising for our members’ businesses. We’ve offered training. We’ve partnered with other organizations within the city, such as SCORE and 36 Degrees North, to make sure our members have the additional exposure to more possibilities.”
Some may wonder why it’s important to have multiple business chambers within one city with an ethnic focus.
Gamble-Smith explained why, stating, “Tulsa’s African-American community was lacking representation in the present business sector when historically, our community is known for creating the Black Wall Street.
Furthermore, the City of Tulsa has a Hispanic Chamber and an American Indian Chamber of Commerce. Lastly, there are multiple black business chambers represented throughout the nation, and we wanted to be a part of what a chamber does for their perspective communities. The African American community was lacking that in Tulsa. And we wanted to make sure that black citizens had the opportunity that every other group has.”
Notably, Gamble-Smith explained that the Black Wall Street Chamber isn’t exclusive to Blacks only and that non-Black members make up nearly 40% of their membership.
Gamble-Smith, also shared with the BWSTimes how excited the Chamber is about their coming educational programs for middle and high school-aged entrepreneurs.
“We are excited about the new program that we’re getting ready to start in October. It’s our young entrepreneur training program. We plan to teach our young people about entrepreneurship at an earlier age and hope to get their mindset ready for the idea of creating jobs for themselves and the broader Tulsa community, which is what our community needs the most.”