100 years after its destruction, Greenwood was thriving during Juneteenth

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juneteenth greenwood tulsa

At Tulsa’s Juneteenth Festival, Greenwood was lined with beautiful Black businesses and free newspapers. Families from all over the nation bought Black this Juneteenth. At our booth alone, we met people from the East to the West.

I personally bought an ensemble and mini-hookah from a booth across the street called Gibbs Green Delivery. I bought amazing homemade soap from Nevaeh’s Bath & Beauty. My friend Queen Alexander bought a gorgeous African formal skirt. The orange pattern came with a scarf in its pocket that she wore as a top.

Tulsa had the largest Juneteenth Festival in the nation. (Photo by Chris Creese)

Juneteenth in Greenwood, Oklahoma

The blazing heat rose to the hundreds on the second day of Tulsa’s Juneteenth Festival. It was a Friday. Our store manager and Editor-in-Chief hauled our cinder blocks, set up our tent, and I sat there and looked pretty. No, really though, we made a lot of connections through handing out our free newspaper alone. My heart shed a tear when a baby girl in a stroller reached for our publication and hugged it.

The mural in front of the OSU sign was blocking us from watching Omaley, Charlie Redd and Cameo in full. Still, we snuck away and rotated shifts to enjoy the festivities.

Saturday morning began with over 210 yoga participants transitioning from downward dog into criss-cross applesauce. Natalie Lauren Sims, W.J. Lofton and Marlon Hall led a wellness session under the expressway along the Pathway to Hope on Greenwood Ave.

Yoga at the Pathway to Hope in the historic Greenwood District. (Photo by Ashley Jones)

Yoga at Juneteenth

The session was titled, “In our being,” and started off with a journaling session. 

Lofton led with a journaling exercise where he asked the crowd to write five things we’re freeing from our lives, five things to do to live a life we’d enjoy and five things we were proud of. We called out into the air, “I give myself permission to let it go. I give myself permission to be free.” We then shared our answers with a friend, our yoga partner, who could hold us accountable.

Hall began his yoga portion of the session with deep breaths and a tight lovely hug toward ourselves. “We not only celebrate Juneteenth for freedom through wellness, we celebrate it as an affirmation of humanity,” Hall said. “So we did what was most human. We moved and we breathed to affirm our humanity.”

Omaley B. opens for CAMEO

Omaley B. opened up for Friday’s headliner, CAMEO. Omaley called out to the crowd and brought a fun, intimate call and response to the stage. His soulful duet with Branjae was electric and set the mood for CAMEO to come out and dazzle the crowd in his red leather jock strap. 

Omaley B performs during Juneteenth Festival in historic Black Wall Street. Omaley points at a photographer. (Photo by Chris Creese)

If you were lucky enough to stay out late past your bedtime, then you could have stayed for Mario’s Juneteenth after party.

The Greenwood Chamber of Commerce worked together with the organizers of Legacy Fest and the Black Wall Street Chamber of Commerce who organized Juneteenth in order to bring the ’90s back to Greenwood.

Ladies swooned all up and down Archer St., but I left as he sang “Let Me Love You” so I wouldn’t get caught up in traffic. At the end of the night, Greenwood Chamber of Commerce President Culver Freeman presented Mario with a key to Black Wall Street.

Overall, Juneteenth in Greenwood, Tulsa was a time for family, community, unity and Black commerce. It’s amazing how you can celebrate a holiday without fireworks and watch it still be a success. No bomb sounds flying over a once ash-stricken district, Greenwood Ave. was thriving with commemoration toward living Black and free.

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