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In 1905 Tulsa’s own Ottawa Gurley, a Black man, bought 40 acres of land, along with his partner John the Baptist Stratford. This may come as news to you but for Tyrance Billingsley II, it’s a North Star leading to much more.
On a new TED Talk, Billingsley II expertly outlines the story of O.W. Gurley and J.B. Stratford, two men who would foundationally change life for Black Oklahomans and soon the entire country.
According to Billingsley II, they achieved this by selling 40 acres of land to Black people “looking to build their lives and businesses alongside other Black people.”
That historic location is where Black Wall Street still exists today.
Black Wall Street was more than a catchy name, it was the truth. With over 600 businesses, hospitals, banks, law offices, private planes, and more, Black Wall Street was the one place in America where Black people communally thrived.
“This was a dumbfounding accomplishment,” says Billingsley II.
Billingsley II points out that Black people, only one generation removed from enslavement, rebounded in an unforeseen fathom, even amid ubiquitous laws and customs rooted in racism.
Billingsley II details the destruction of Black Wall Street and names names in the process, providing lucid accounts of the tragedy that befell our one and only Black oasis. At the end of the infamous massacre, “over 300 lives were lost and over 10,000 Black people were left homeless”, stated Billingsley II.
Billingsley II recalled the wealth-income gap which most Black Americans have yet to gain any traction on along with putrid projections for the future, yet he’s offering more than a history lesson, he’s offering an alternative.
Billingsley II looks within to help those without.
Billingsley stated he developed a three-pronged approach to reimagining what Black Wall Street could look like today. To summarize: 1. Tech is a great industry to build wealth within a decade’s time. 2. Tech is consistently utilized globally as a core medium. 3. Due to an anticipated “tech talent shortage” by 2030, up to 4.3 million high-salaried tech jobs will be available.
Comparing his vision to Gurley and Stratford’s, Billingsley II stated he had an epiphany of Black Tech Street in the same community that once thrived there one hundred years ago.
While his vision would provide obvious financial security and generational wealth, Billingsley II says it’s even bigger than that. “More importantly, a new story of what it means to be Black in America” is what’s needed according to the soothing orator.
Billingsley II wants Black people to be the catalyst behind the next tech boom.
The tech boom, or what Billingsley II calls the “fourth industrial revolution”, must involve Black participation at the helm.
While it’s easy to discuss problems of the past and hypothesize about contemporary solutions, Billingsley II provides historical and present-day receipts for the injustices committed throughout U.S. history against people who were simply looking to live their lives.
Struck with an ambitious epiphany, only time will tell if the tech industry revitalizes Black Wall Street as Billingsley II envisions. If his dream comes to fruition, the landscape of America could change forever.