(BALTIMORE – July 21, 2016) – I want to take a moment and pause – and simply thank the black business advocates past and present for their tireless efforts throughout our history in this country. It is because of years of dedication and hard work that the black community is finally finding its footing and realizing its power … once again. That very foundation, let us not forget, is the channeling our hard-earned dollars into black banks and other viable institutions that help create a way for us – our own way – in the midst of the United States of America.
Frederick Douglass stated that if there is no struggle, there is no progress. And Lord knows, the black community has seen more than its share of struggle. I will only add that no matter how difficult times have gotten, it is those age-old nuggets of wisdom and common sense – coupled with love – that have repeatedly served us best.
While the recent surge in black bank accounts called for by Atlanta-based rapper Killer Mike in response to the tragic killings – once again – of black men by cops (Alton Sterling and Philando Castile), I am reminded that this economic progress as a people is not new to us. In fact, it is more common than many of us might realize.
Mound Bayou, Mississippi comes to mind. This black town had everything except a hospital, according to the legendary tales I’ve been told. Rosewood – down in Florida: That, too, was a self-sufficient black town whereby black people had their very own economy featuring their own black businesses. Jackson Ward, located in Richmond, was the site of yet another Black Wall Street; this one was made famous by Maggie L. Walker, the first woman bank president in America; and she was black.
‘Black Wall Street’, for the uninitiated, is a term that is typically associated with black business districts. While unbeknownst to many, these areas were prevalent for a very simple reason. The era of Jim Crow did not afford black people the opportunity to shop and do business where white folks did, especially in super-racist southern states.
Black people’s prize possession, so to speak, when it comes to the concept of black business districts is the jewel of them all: Tulsa. O.W. Gurley was the founder. Like many blacks fleeing the harsh conditions of southern life in search of entrepreneurial wealth and fortune (not just looking for employment), Gurley understood the need to be a land owner. He also had some understanding of teamwork and the need to have buy-in from like-minded individuals. Hence, the wealthy black businessman from Arkansas helped catalyze the most important segment of our economic development as a people.
“Around the start of the 20th century O.W. Gurley, a wealthy African American land-owner from Arkansas, traversed the United States to participate in the Oklahoma Land run of 1889. The young entrepreneur had just resigned from a presidential appointment under president Grover Cleveland in order to strike out on his own.”
In 1906, Gurley moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma where he purchased 40 acres of land which was “only to be sold to colored”. Black ownership was unheard of at that time.
Among Gurley’s first businesses was a rooming house which was located on a dusty trail near the railroad tracks. This road was given the name Greenwood Avenue, named for a city in Mississippi. The area became very popular among African American migrants fleeing the oppression in Mississippi. They would find refuge in Gurley’s building, as the racial persecution from the south was non-existent on Greenwood Avenue.”
In 15 years of Gurley’s arrival, Tulsa was so magnificent that an angry mob of white people bombed it and burned it to the ground. Consequently, over 600 black businesses were decimated.
So, when I learn about Killer Mike and the effort he has single-handedly taken to a whole other level, I am ever so grateful. For years, our news outlets at Bmorenews.com have pushed the envelope on black business. We have advocated consistently about harnessing the power of our $1 trillion in annual disposable income and toiled to help ensure that black consumers understand the spending power we have.
Consistently, we have discussed on our radio shows that without black spending, a lot of businesses would be out of business. After all, it is only common sense. When we consider how efficiently others trek to America just to set up shop in the black community, every black person who can read should be ashamed of ourselves for being a top supporter of brands that do absolutely nothing for the black community.
Can somebody please explain the point of supporting someone who does not support you? Common sense suggests that person is a liability and not an asset. Gurley, along with every strong leader in history, understood the need for teamwork and cooperation. Otherwise, Black Wall Street Tulsa would not have been the best in the nation when it comes to black progress. Clearly, these were people who were on the ball, no doubt! (To be continued)