Arts and Culture

America’s Sneaker Subculture and Venita Cooper’s New Black Wall Street Sneaker Store


(from left to right) Gary Mason, Tausha Sanders, Frankie Zombie, Venita Cooper, Ian Williams, Channing Beumer, Brandon Oldham | Photograph by Christopher Creese

Publish 09/23/2019 | Reading Time 3 min 21 sec 

Editorial | By Nehemiah D. Frank 

Kicks, Creps, Scooby Doos, Feet Whips, and Sneakers are just a few by-names for the rubbery and comfy fashion statements that protect humankind’s feet from the elements.  

Since four-time Olympic Gold medalist, Jessie Owens blazed the tracks at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany with his famous Adidas (AH-dee-dahs) kicks — sneakers have always been famously respected within African-American culture, and Adidas became the go-to for athletic shoes in western culture. 

Adi Dassler, the inventor of the brand, was progressive and forward-thinking beyond his years allowing a black person to represent his brand, despite the push back he received from the Nazi German government. Hence, it could be said that the sneaker was one of many intersections that ignited the counter-cultural and global resistance movement against White Supremacy ideologies because it began dismissing the false ideas about racialized superiority and brought people together despite their racial identity.


Air Fear Of God 1 sneakers features a slip-on style, a square toe, laced-front detail, sock-style silhouette and black lacquer Swoosh. | Photograph by Christopher Creese

The Michael Jordan era of the ’80s ushered in a new type of love and purpose for wearing sneakers. The shoe became more than athletic gear, shifting to a symbol of fashionable cultural apparel. More than just a basketball shoe, Air Jordans, created by the American company Nike, would grow in popularity to represent an ideal — the goal of reaching for excellence and attaining the ethos of what it is to achieve success in the US. To have a pair of Jordans is equivalent to attaining a piece of the American dream. 

Venita Cooper, a young entrepreneur living in Tulsa, Oklahoma, embodies the American Dream. Specifically, she personifies the black American Dream for people of color. In October 2019, Cooper will be the first business owner to open a sneaker store on America’s original Black Wall Street since the Greenwood district’s infamous heyday of black economic prosperity


Venita Cooper Founder and Owner of Silhouette Sneakers & Art on Black Wall Street

Photograph by Christopher Creese

Silhouette Sneakers & Art will be a highly-curated retail experience that brings limited and authentic sneakers and streetwear to Tulsa’s Black Wall Street. Its boutique will be coupled with an art gallery, showcasing a rotating selection of street-inspired art. Silhouette Sneakers & Art will, therefore, welcome every sneakerhead, streetwear lover and enthusiast of the arts into single shared space. 


Frankie Zombie (Left) and Alexander Tamahn (Right)

Photograph by Christopher Creese

This month, Silhouette Sneakers & Art brought multiple sneaker-cultural experts to Tulsa for an exclusive event and panel discussion for persons who are seemingly married to their footwear. The atmosphere was laden with sneakers and of art from local artists Alexander Tamahn, Rebekah Campbell McIlwain, and No Parking Studios.

Tausha Sanders, the founder of SneakHer Summit, the female division of Sneaker Summit, sat on Saturday night’s panel at the trendy and eclectic Foolish Things Coffee Company in downtown Tulsa. Sanders shared: “My mom always had me in the fliest kicks. You know I had to be fly for the first day of school and fly for picture day. I’ve just continued that love. I love sneakers. I’ll wear them every day all day. I can enjoy a heel every now and then, but I feel like sneakers bring people together. I can talk about sneakers all day and with whomever.” 


Brandon Oldham focused on right | Photograph by Christopher Creese

Brandon Oldham, a Tulsa socialite and sneaker lover who also sat on Saturday’s panel, said, “Our community is made of a multitude of subcultures that, together, enrich our city. Events like these create space for community members to connect while showcasing our city through the lens of sneakers and art.”

Ian Williams, founder and CEO of Deadstock Coffee in Portland, Oregon — a coffee and sneaker themed shop that even boasts its own LeBron James-Themed Beverage, said this: “I thought the event was amazing! It was so dope to see the city come together and support something new. Retail is so difficult, so I feel great knowing that people are very aware of the space opening soon,” referring to Venita Cooper’s new Silhouette Sneakers & Art opening on Black Wall Street. “At the base of it,” referring to the kickback — literally, “…it was seriously an honor to be there. I am excited to see what Venita has for y’all, starting in just two weeks.” Williams went on to add, “Sneakers are a big part of my life. Sneakers made it possible for me to come experience beautiful Tulsa. Sneakers have taken me around the world and opened doors to places I never thought I’d go.”


At the end of the night, Cooper was optimistic about what was accomplished. “The event was a starting point for an ongoing conversation about how we elevate sneaker and street culture here in Tulsa,” she explained. “These successful entrepreneurs came to our city to engage with us because they believe in the potential of our people. Hopefully, everyone left with a clearer vision for that potential, particularly regarding how we can foster community and lift each other up.”

Cooper is definitely in the right field. The sneaker business is a multi-billion-dollar industry with a subcultural market value between 600 million to 1 billion dollars, that’s according to a GQ magazine article titled, “How a Single Pair of Sneakers Explains the Booming Billion-Dollar Sneaker Resale Industry.” Cooper said her business will also include sneaker resale.

Cooper is currently planning for the soft launch of Silhouette Sneakers & Art on Friday, October 4th during First Friday Art Crawl. This will be the public’s first look at the space.

Photographs by Christopher Creese


Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder & editor in chief of The Black Wall Street Times. Frank is also a blogger for the Education Post network. He’s a graduate of Harold Washington College and Oklahoma State University. Frank is highly involved in community activism and is also a public school educator. In 2017, Frank was a Terence Crutcher Foundation Honoree and has been featured on NBC, Blavity, and Tulsa People. Among his many accomplishments, Frank is a TED Talk Alum, and a board member at the Tulsa Press Club and Tulsa World.


Categories: Arts and Culture