by Ronnie Estoque
On Monday, May 29, 23rd Avenue and Jackson Street was full of soulful music, lively dancing, tasty food, and over 100 Black vendors as Africatown Community Land Trust (ACLT) hosted their third annual Honoring Our Black Wall Streets event. The event honored the 102nd anniversary of the massacre and decimation of Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“Research has shown Black business ownership is a proven path to closing wealth gaps, as Black business owners were 12 times wealthier than their peers, and if just 15% of Black-owned businesses are able to hire one more employee, the American economy could grow by $55 billion and 600,000 jobs,” said ACLT President and CEO Wyking Garrett.
In May of 1921, a white mob in Tulsa, Oklahoma, attacked the predominantly Black neighborhood of Greenwood, which was known as “Black Wall Street.” The Tulsa Race Massacre claimed the lives of around 300 Black people living in the community, with many of their businesses and homes burnt to the ground in the riot.
“It’s an American tragedy and among many of the reasons that reparations is in order and long overdue,” Garrett said. “It’s also a story of great resilience as the Black entrepreneurs rebuilt it to greater prosperity within five years. Unfortunately, racist government policy of Urban Renewal [and the] Federal Highway Act led to its demise.”
ACLT provides technical support to the local community through the William Grose Center for Cultural Innovation and Black Dot and has provided over $20 million to Black-owned firms for contracts on their projects. Currently, ACLT has also given grants to over 75 businesses and has over 50% Black contractor participation on the Africatown Plaza.
Honoring Our Black Wall Streets also featured live DJs, raffles featuring products from local Black-owned businesses, and a Virtual Reality Activation Tent from the William Grose Center.
“In the 102 years since [the Tulsa Race Massacre], many other tactics have been used to destroy thriving Black business districts and communities across the country including redlining, highways, Urban Renewal (negro removal), concentration of drugs and crime, mass incarceration, and more,” Garret said. “We look forward to doing more and helping others do more as well.”
Ronnie Estoque is a South Seattle-based freelance photographer and videographer. You can keep up with his work by checking out his website.
📸 Featured Image: Community members gathered at 23rd and Jackson Street for the Honoring Our Black Wall Streets event. (Photo: Ronnie Estoque)
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