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Oklahoma remains home to more all-Black towns than any other state in the nation, and from November 10-13, organizers are coming together to host a Black Towns Revival.
Bringing together local residents, tourists, community advocates and faith leaders, the three-day event seeks to expose the world to the rich history and continuing legacy of all-Black towns.
Formerly enslaved people of African descent–from the South and those who were enslaved by the Five Tribes–eventually turned Oklahoma/Indian Territory into a densely populated refuge for over 50 all-Black communities.
Despite racial terrorism and population decline, over 10 all-Black towns remain active in the state.
For Cymone Davis, CEO of Black Towns Municipal Management, the three-day Black Towns Revival event continues a journey that began in Tullahassee, the oldest-surviving all-Black town in Oklahoma.
“Look at our current state of a nation. Where do we feel safe? Where do we feel whole? Black towns historically have been here for this reason, this season,” Davis told The Black Wall Street Times.
Black Towns Revival Weekend
The Black Towns Revival Weekend will feature a tour of Tullahassee, home to nationally registered landmarks, and breakfast in Boley, home to the country’s oldest community-based rodeo.
Participants will also view a screening of the community redevelopment documentary film “It Takes a Village” in Tulsa, Oklahoma, along with other workshops and networking opportunities.
“Part of this weekend is not only showing Oklahomans what is possible, but to show those nationwide,” Davis told The Black Wall Street Times.
To accomplish her goal, she partnered with United Church of Christ Church Building & Loan Fund, Bois & Peters, LLC, and The Congressional Black Caucus for New Urbanism.
“Black Towns Revival is about investment and redevelopment. But more importantly, Black Towns Revival is about taking the good news we preach in the church house and living it out in the marketplace and the community,” said Rev. Dr. Patrick G Duggan, executive director of the United Church of Christ Church Building & Loan Fund.
After following Davis’ work, Duggan approached her at the Congress for New Urbanism conference with the desire to amplify it.
“One of the main struggles for Black towns to rebuild is dilapidated land and property,” Davis explained.
Meanwhile, Bois & Peters, LLC, recently signed a joint partnership agreement with the U.S. Department of Commerce to assist with federal funding for minority development projects in Black communities and townships.
Together, the organizations are building power for the revitalization of Black towns.
Continuing a mission: Revival of Black Towns
As a doctoral student at the University of Southern California, Davis has dreams of building an all-Black boarding school. Ironically, her international ambitions eventually took her back to her roots into a small town seeking resurgence.
Tullahassee, a town incorporated by Black Freedmen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, has taken center stage in a national effort to repair these dilapidated yet resilient communities.
In 2021, Davis served as city manager for Tullahassee. She organized a 30-day community clean-up event, bringing together stakeholders from across different industries with expertise in building up the community.
Since then, she’s added the city to the MORE initiative (Mayors organized for reparations and equity). She’s even enlisted Oklahoma’s Republican Lt. Governor as an advisor to Tullahassee’s commission.
Moreover, Davis utilized an NFL grant and, with support from Tulsa-based nonprofit Racism Stinks, produced and starred in a music video titled “More Money.” The goal was to create a social movement around reparations and equity.
Last year, Davis worked with Next Leadership Development Corporation in Boston to develop the nation’s first-ever interactive map of Black towns across the country.
The groundbreaking resource showcases over 80 settlements that prove the resilience, grit and power of Black people throughout U.S. history.
Collectively, each seemingly distinct initiative Davis has sparked over the last few years has begun to take shape, culminating in a revival for Black towns and a reminder of Black power.
“The African diaspora has expanded across three continents for over three centuries,” Davis said. She believes we can eradicate the relationship between race and poverty “if we start to realize our collective power everywhere, our collective buying power of over $1.2 trillion.”
Ultimately, in a world that showcases Black trauma like a 24-hour news cycle, Davis wants to embrace hope.
“We have to hope. Theres a lot of Black trauma in the media. We have to push Black hope into those same spaces.”