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My name is D’Marria Monday. I’m a descendant of Greenwood and an OSU graduate. I’m a survivor of mass incarceration who began my higher education journey while incarcerated in a federal prison. We’ll look at how that ties into the story later. It’s been almost 100 years after the heinous 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre that destroyed the promise of black economic upward mobility.
The Greenwood district, 36 blocks in North Tulsa, was vibrant and full of prosperity. The famous Booker T. Washington nicknamed the area “Black Wall Street” because of the economic vitality. The community thrived in the midst of segregation and it promoted the hope of black entrepreneurship.
Jealousy and envy from the white community seized the moment to burn the independent black community of Black Wall Street to the ground, looting the wealth that remained. Our ancestors’ hope for the future went up in flames and laid smothering in the ashes. White supremacy hid the atrocity and caused the festering pain to widen the distrust between the black and white community.
The silencing of Black Wall Street
There was silence about the act of violence from each side for 50 years. The black community didn’t know who to look to for justice. Black Wall Street was replaced with racist systemic policies that disenfranchised our community. Our ancestors strived to rebuild the once vibrant community, however it was never the same. Insurance policies were denied, people moved away, eminent domain tore down homes and built up highways. They built a baseball field while historically black businesses were pushed off of Greenwood.
White supremacy crippled our community with economic disinvestment. Inspiration was lost through each generation. Let’s talk about how generational trauma strips hope away from each generation, even just passing through the womb. Now, our community is riddled with mass incarceration and all of the problems people face that lead back to incarceration. We suffer from the lack of investment in housing, employment, education, small business development, and community engagement.
The 100-year anniversary of our ancestor’s pain will commence soon. Everyone in Tulsa wants to talk about healing and transformation. Yet, things are still the same. Our trauma magnifies our ancestors’ struggle as we deal with institutionalized racist structures that continue to exploit our pain. We’re still demanding justice as our ancestors cry for it from the grave. Our voices are often excluded until after plans for our community are already made.
Solutions must be crafted that engage with those directly impacted. Transformative justice is a process where all individuals affected by an injustice are given the opportunity to address and repair the harm. Those affected consider and recount how an act has affected them and what can be done.
Block Builderz’s mission promotes community-based solutions in Tulsa that promote economic and racial justice from a holistic perspective. A holistic approach leverages the human capital of community leaders, activists, and those with justice involvement to be the architects of positive change. We must craft solutions that repair the harm by dismantling oppressive structures. The old way is broken and in need of repair. It’s time we create solutions that address the root systemic inequities: housing, employment and mental health services. Our vision is to build hope block by block. HOPE is: Healing Our Post Traumatic Experiences. Join us on our journey to heal our community. Find us at blockbuilderz.org and on social media.
D’Marria Monday is a formerly incarcerated woman who uses her voice and experiences to shine a light on the challenges faced by justice-involved Oklahomans. She is the Visionary Founder of Block Builderz, which offers community-led solutions as alternatives to incarceration, as well as Northeast Oklahoma Field Organizer for Together Oklahoma, a criminal justice coalition funded by think tank Oklahoma Policy Institute. In 2018, Monday led a successful legislative grassroots campaign with Rep. Regina Goodwin and Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice to end the shackling of incarcerated pregnant women.