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The Hale Boys Basketball team walked into Silhouette on Greenwood Wednesday, thinking they were on a field trip tour. They didn’t know they were each about to be gifted a free pair of sneakers of their choosing.

“Everybody get in your positions!” store owner Venita Cooper told members of the media gathered at the store as the team walked up. She tasked reporters with pretending to be shoppers to not spoil the surprise.

Anonymous donors reached out to Cooper the week prior, wanting to celebrate the boys for winning the regional championship. She then worked with the team’s coaches to arrange the surprise event.

“I am so happy to have you here,” Cooper told the team as they huddled together in the store. “Congratulations on all the success that you had this year.”

Cooper told the team they were standing in the same spot where Grier Shoe Shop once stood in the heart of Greenwood. That shoe shop, destroyed in the 1921 massacre, lives on today in Silhouette.

“I just want you to know how much your future means to the future of Tulsa,” she told the boys. “I wanted you to hear that from me specifically.”

Cooper then turned it over to their head coach, Daniel McChesney, to reveal the big news.

“The real reason we’re here, fellas, is some donors in the community respect what we’ve done here at Hale,” McChesney said. “They want to reward you guys – so you are each going to get to pick out a pair of sneakers to take home.”

Overwhelmed with excitement, the boys immediately started looking through shoes, helping each other pick out the best kicks.

Basketball players call the surprise an “unreal experience”

For nearly an hour, the boys poured over pairs of Dunks, Jordans, New Balances and more. For many, it was a surreal experience.

“This is unreal for me,” Hale freshman Jordynn Otomewo told The BWSTimes. “When you get an opportunity from a great store, and a great coach, you gotta take it.”

“It’s crazy,” he said, “the amount of people in Tulsa – and they chose us.”

Photo Courtesy: Mike Creef (TBWSTimes) Venita Cooper, owner of “Silhouette” along with members of the Nathan Hale boys basketball team.

Sophomores Jacobbi Edwards and Damario Adams echoed Otomewo’s sentiments.

“It’s crazy, because like nobody knew about us at first,” Adams said. “Now, everybody knows. I don’t know how to feel right now.”

“This is something I wasn’t expecting,” Edwards added. “This is a different feeling.”

For McChesney and the entire coaching staff, this moment confirmed the immense support the team has from the Tulsa community.

“The amount of support we’ve gotten this year is a lot different than what a lot of schools receive, and I think it’s a testament to what our guys have done,” McChesney said.

“There was a stigma around Nathan Hale for a long time. That ‘Nathan Hale is a bad school’, ‘it’s a rough school’, ‘it’s not somewhere someone wants to go’,” he continued.
“[These boys] were willing to put a whole community on their back.”

Silhouette owner sees this as a symbol of the unique potential of small businesses to make an impact

Cooper, who also surprised the coaches with a pair of shoes, says this shows the impact small businesses can have on the Tulsa community.

“I think this is the potential of small businesses,” Cooper said. “We can move so quickly. We got a call just last week from anonymous donors who wanted to make this happen, and here we are.”

Photo Courtesy: Mike Creef (TBWSTimes) Venita Cooper, owner of “Silhouette” along with members of the Nathan Hale boys basketball team.

“Sneakers are very important cultural symbols,” she emphasized. “For these kids to work so hard and be rewarded with something like this – it’s an extraordinary way to show love, encouragement and celebrate these kids who deserve to be celebrated.”

After they checked out at the counter, Cooper handed each boy a sharpie to sign a basketball. That ball, signed by the 2023 Nathan Hale Rangers Boys’ Basketball team, will be displayed in Silhouette – a shoe store with a legacy rooted in the heart of Greenwood.

Nate Morris moved to the Tulsa area in 2012 and has committed himself to helping build a more equitable and just future for everyone who calls the city home. As a teacher, advocate, community organizer...