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Jerica Dionne Wortham tried espresso for the first time while sitting in Liquid Lounge, a Black-owned coffee shop on Tulsa’s Black Wall Street. She took a gulp and said, “whew” followed by laughter. Moments later she burst into song, “The best part of waking up, Espresso in your…cup.”
The owner, Guy Troope, followed up saying, “You going to sing a jingle for us,” to which she responded, “I got to.”
It’s noteworthy that Wortham also appeared on two songs on the Fire In Little Africa album, the first single “’Shining” and “North Tulsa Got Something to Say.”
Wortham is a poet, published author, entrepreneur and native of North Tulsa. She attended Carver Middle School and Booker T. Washington High school. Her upbringing in North Tulsa helped develop her mindset and understanding of the importance of community. “One thing is, you live in North Tulsa, you learn to be resourceful, period.” She told The Black Wall Street Times.
“When you have a vision for what you can contribute to the community, and even if it doesn’t necessarily have the resources or financial backing that you need to make that thing happen. You learn how to lean on community, you learn how to make a little bit go a long way.” She added.
Jerica Wortham: a jewel of the city
Wortham’s passion for the community led her to developing a platform to share her voice and empowering others to do the same. In 2012, she started J’Parlé, currently known as J’Parlé Artist Group Inc., a platform designed to give artists a voice. Artists have shared their voice through spoken word, short stories and poems. The short stories and poems were published in J’Parlé Literary Magazine, and spoken word artists have performed at her monthly open mic nights.
She mentioned five steps to guide her vision for the community, the first step being comfortable using her voice: “Step two, share said voice. Step three, show other people they can also use their voice. Step four, create a platform so people can use their voice and express their art form.” She told the Black Wall Street Times.
“Step five is now like, okay, so you’ve done this for poetry. How do we incorporate music? Ok, we’ve done poetry, we’ve done music, how do we empower entrepreneurs? How do we empower artists and visual artists and people with stories to tell? Then how do we use this space so that people can come in and network with one another and build businesses together and rebuild Black Wall Street?”
Wortham has seen a part of her vision come to life and has recently been awarded. In the beginning of November, she was the recipient of Tulsa Young Professionals (TYPROS) Boomtown Legacy Award. According to TYPROS website, the Boomtown Awards celebrates the legacy of young professionals in Tulsa and their mark on the city’s past, present and future.
Shining in North Tulsa
This past September she hosted parlä, an 8-day citywide creative festival. Each day highlighted a different form of creative expression. Fashion, film, and mental well being were a few of the events held during the week.
On Sunday, September 18, she received a permit from Tulsa City Council to host a dinner for 120 creatives on Greenwood Avenue. The event celebrated artistic creativity while supporting Black-owned businesses. The event was catered by three Black Women: Chef Tiffany Nicole, Chef Tylisha Oliver-Thompson and Chef Taylor LaTouche.
“All three of them came together, they masterminded a beautifully crafted menu. It was so good. People still ask me, who made this again, and who made that again?” she said. “That’s what it was about. It is about us eating really good food and drinking wine from Patrice Corbin,” she said. Corbin co-owns a winery based in Owasso, Oklahoma.
Wortham believes that Tulsa has the talent needed to cultivate and sustain a thriving art culture in the city. “People need to know that they can come to Tulsa and mind their thought leadership, that they can mind their creative talent, they don’t have to go to a coast.”
“We have that here. But we need to start with people seeing it here themselves and doing a better job of amplifying that voice,” she said.
Wortham has a publishing company where she helps aspiring authors move their ideas from concept to product. She is more than a jill of all trades. She’s on a quest to help resurge Black Wall Street, but not alone. She’s inspiring many others to utilize their voice, too.
“We’re what it looks like in a hundred years’ time, got the audacity to walk up out the ashes in shine, we shining’!” – Jerica Wortham, Shining (FILA).