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Residents of the historic Greenwood community of Tulsa, Oklahoma, slowly filed themselves into Friendship West Baptist Church for the Celebrating of Life service for Sherry Gamble-Smith, the late President of the Black Wall Street Chamber of Commerce. Gamble-Smith was a rock and pillar in the community that was famously coined Black Wall Street. 

Her passionate dedication of service to her community led her to become the founding President of the Black Wall Street Chamber of Commerce and the Chair of Tulsa Juneteenth — that, as of 2020, began hosting the largest Juneteenth commemoration in the U.S. 

At the beginning of 2020, the Committee had already been in full planning mode; however, by late Spring, those plans were put on pause due to the Coronavirus global pandemic. 

Sherry Gamble-Smith Contributed to Juneteenth becoming a Federal Holiday

With former President Donald J. Trump desperate to launch his reelection campaign in Tulsa, Oklahoma — site of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, during Juneteenth weekend in 2020; community leaders planned the event in a record seven days to counter the former president’s hateful message. Gamble-Smith and her community’s efforts, along with Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, Greg Robinson, Nehemiah D. Frank, and others – brought Juneteenth front and center.

During the Centennial Year of the Massacre, the Black Wall Street Legacy Festival, along with other community leaders, undoubtedly helped catalyze Juneteenth to be federally recognized as an American holiday and made Tulsa Juneteenth the largest in the nation. Gamble-Smith played a pivotal role in helping organize the event along with Dr. Tiffany Crutcher. 

“How did we get Juneteenth as a national holiday?” Jeffery Robinson, founder and CEO of The Who We Are Project, asked during his Keynote at the Honoring Survivors & Descendants Luncheon for the 2nd Black Wall Street Legacy Festival. “Because of June first of last year, there was no national movement for Juneteenth to be a national holiday. I’m not disrespecting any advocates that have been pushing for that or advocates that have worked on that. I’m just saying there was no national discussion, there was no national movement, there was no committee in congress, there was nothing, and then y’all did what you did here. And what you did here – in the Centennial remembrance. It made America – quite frankly – want to throw up in its mouth. It made America ashamed. It made America angry. It made America feel like ‘my god we have to do something. That’s why Juneteenth got made into a national holiday. With no previous discussion, they passed that bill in 18 days.” 

— Jeffery Robinson, founder and CEO of The Who We Are Project, said during the Honoring Survivors & Descendants Luncheon for the 2nd Black Wall Street Legacy Festival. 

This latest Juneteenth was once again the biggest in the nation, attracting performances by Con Funk Shun and Dru Hill. 

It would sadly be Gamble-Smith’s last Juneteenth as she was taken from the community on July 6, 2022. 

Although she is resting, her legacy will inevitably live on through her powerhouse daughters and son, who have already proven to have the strength of their mother.

Sherry Remembered as God’s Vessel 

The eulogy was brought by Pastor Ebony Coleman, a message about how Sherry was God’s vessel and that she was good until the very last drop — always pouring into others in hopes of bringing them comfort and improving their lives. ?

The matriarch of the Gamble family, Dorothea Gamble, remembers her daughter.

To my sweet, loving, caring, intelligent, and amazing daughter.

I miss you so much and cry every day. My heart hurts so much. I miss you calling me almost every day, checking on me, asking me if I need anything, and telling me that you love me.

I remember our last call. Oh, how happy you were when we spoke that every evening and you shared with me news about the Chamber.

From the day you were born, I have loved you Sherry La Bone?. At birth, you had so much hair. My grandmother, Momma Glass, said it looks like you were wearing a wig. You are now with your dad and that brings me comfort.

GOD ?is keeping and holding me.? rest in peace, my sweet baby. “I love you all the way to Jesus GOD.”??

Love Mom,

Dorothea Gamble

The Black Wall Street Times is a news publication located in Tulsa, Okla. and Atlanta, Ga. At The BWSTimes, we focus on elevating the stories of our beloved Greenwood community, elevating the stories of...