Nearly a century after Black Wall Street burning, Tulsa attempts to right wrongs

On Wednesday, Tulsa’s city council unanimously approved an ordinance that would create a commission specifically designed to address the needs of the Tulsa African-American community.

The Greater Tulsa Area African-American Affairs Commission will advise Mayor G.T. Bynum on various issues that affect the community. District 1 Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper, who has been working for some time to get such a commission approved for the city, deferred on giving more specifics on the kinds of issues that the commission would take on, saying instead that she was overjoyed that there was something in place for the community.

“It could be health issues, economic issues. It could be community policing,” she said. “Just what the community as a whole sees as the important issues that need to addressed.”

The 23 members of the commission will work with the four other human rights-related commissions in Tulsa, the Hispanic Affairs Commission, the Indian Affairs Commission, the Human Rights Commission, and the Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women.

Mayor Bynum applauded the decision as one that would help the city address the needs of all of its citizens, saying, “This is another tool at our disposal to make Tulsa a better place for all Tulsans.”

Tulsa has an interesting yet ugly history in regards to the socioeconomics of its African-American residents. The city was once the home of Black Wall Street, the most prominent concentration of black-owned businesses in the United States. That is until the Tulsa race riot of 1921, when a white mob massacred hundreds of black residents and burned down the once thriving community.