Listen to this article here

GREENWOOD Dist. — United States Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh visited Greenwood on Thursday February 9. The visit came two days after President Biden’s State of the Union address, in which he restated his commitment to investment in Black commerce.

During Walsh’s visit, he spoke with Greenwood residents and touted economic bills that will empower Black citizens, according to a report from Public Radio Tulsa. Due to historic redlining, Black Americans lost opportunities for income and wealth.

During Biden’s SOTU, he noted that Black unemployment is currently at its second-lowest rate in history. Despite that, Public Radio Tulsa reported Walsh stating, “Black unemployment rate is twice that of White. The wealth of White people over Black people is far more than two times.

Walsh noted that unlike previous presidents, Biden supports a bottom-up economy. Previous politicians have endorsed trickle-down economy, in which only the rich receive opportunities and tax breaks.

U.S. Secretary Labor visits Historic Greenwood

Secretary of Labor Walsh met with small business owners while in Greenwood. He also spoke with the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce.

Cleo Harris, a longtime Greenwood resident and owner of Black Wall St Tees and Souvenirs, was cautious regarding the impact of Walsh’s visit.

“I would like to see reparations, I would like to see more support for Black-owned businesses, and I would like to see preserving the history in a way where it is not just a ceremonial-type thing, fun fest, but a memorial to where people can learn the true, authentic history of what happened here,” he said, according to Public Radio Tulsa.

Greenwood is the home to the original Black Wall St, which White terrorists razed to the ground in 1921. Hundreds of Black men, women, and children were murdered during the massacre

The most horrific race pogram in history, the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre hinged on White residents’ jealousy of the economic and social success of Black residents in Greenwood. Prior to the massacre, Greenwood was home to hundreds of successful Black-owned businesses.

Touring Historic Greenwood

Walsh toured the Greenwood Rising museum during his visit, and learned about Tulsa’s storied history. “What really struck me is, it wasn’t that long ago,” Secretary of Labor Walsh said.

Noticeably absent from Walsh’s visit were Tulsa city council member Vanessa Hall-Harper (District 1), and Oklahoma state Representative Regina Goodwin (D-Tulsa), both of whom represent Greenwood. Neither Goodwin nor Hall Harper commented on whether they were informed of the planned visit. 

Both legislators have suggestions for supporting Greenwood, with Goodwin promoting removing the northern section of 244 — which directly bisects Greenwood. Goodwin also noted the importance of the difference between economic revitalization and gentrification. 

“I would hope the federal government, the state government, the county government and the city government would understand that,” Goodwin said. 

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...