black wall street

Black Owned Businesses Working to Preserve the Legacy of Black Wall Street 100 Years After the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre

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Willie Sells owns Tee's Barbershop on historic Greenwood Avenue in Tulsa Oklahoma.

"They plan to have Stacey Abrams keynote speaker," Sells said while cutting a customer’s hair.

He knows all about the events surrounding the Race Massacre Centennial Remembrance planned in Tulsa.

"It's not a celebration,” Sells said. “It's in memory of my lost loved ones."

His barbershop is the oldest Black-owned business on the street. He remembers Greenwood Avenue's renaissance in later years.

"Archer to all the way to Pine Black-owned and operated,” Sells said. “They were operating at that time in the early '60s and late '50s.  So, Greenwood was booming."

That was then. But Sells sees a different area now.         

"I'm just thankful that we could be here,” Sells said. “But I'm hoping things will get better in the future."

A better future is what Angela Robinson is also hoping for. 

"I feel like I'm here for a reason and for a purpose," Black Wall Street Corner Store and More owner Angela Robinson said.

Vince Sims
Angela Robinson stands at the counter of her new business Black Wall Street Corner Store and More on Greenwood Avenue in Tulsa

She and her husband recently opened Black wall Street Corner Store and More.  They're the newest business on historic Greenwood.

“I wanted to be able to bring something to this area that I felt was missing," Robinson said.

Vince Sims
Angela Robinson helping a young customer inside her store.

Bringing back economic prosperity is the ongoing mission of the Historic Greenwood Chamber of Commerce.

"Our mission is to help provide economic development in the community,” Historic Greenwood Chamber of Commerce President Freeman Culver said. “We really focus on small businesses. We are very relevant and still important. If we can increase what we have here and bring more business, it's just going to help the state and the Midwest," Culver added.

Vince Sims
Greenwood Chamber of Commerce office

Along with keeping businesses in the area, he's working to save those last remaining buildings. He says the chamber has applied for them to be placed on the National Parks Registry of Historic Places.

"It's important to save Black Wall Street for the future of our generations," Culver said.

Vince Sims
Historic Black Wall Street sign in Tulsa, Oklahoma

The future is also on the mind of Guy Troupe. He owns a coffee shop on Greenwood Avenue called Black Wall Street Liquid Lounge. 

"I do think the spirit of Black Wall Street, the spirit of entrepreneurs all over the United States, people of color, is growing again,” Troupe said. “So, what happened in 1921 taught us a lesson that we can stick together, work together, spend together."

That stronger together mentality is exactly what Robinson is providing with her corner store.

"I have opened this up in a sense to local vendors,” Robinson said. “People who have a product and have not been able to get it in a store or online or whatever the case maybe they have an opportunity to bring that product here."

She sees the potential and is moved by what the future of Black Wall Street could be once again.

"It gives me goosebumps,” Robinson said. “I just feel this is our time to make change, to make a difference, to unify. I just feel it's our time."

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