Tulsa’s Black Wall Street being redeveloped by white companies

A lawsuit accuses leaders of continuing to enrich themselves at the expense of the Black community in Tulsa

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Black entrepreneurs say they have been reduced to renters in the historic Greenwood district, an area of Tulsa, so prosperous, it was once known as Black Wall Street.

Over a hundred years ago, African Americans owned land and built a thriving business community in Greenwood. But in 1921, white Tulsans unleashed a wave of violence on the residents and business owners in the area, callously murdering scores of Black people and destroying what was viewed as a symbol of Black success.

Tulsa Race Massacre
Injured and wounded men are being taken to hospital by National guardsmen after racially motivated riots, also known as the “Tulsa Race Massacre”, during which a mobs of white residents attacked black residents and businesses of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma, US. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Read More: Oklahoma begins Tulsa race massacre centennial remembrance

In more recent times, after a career in sports consulting, Guy Troupe, 54, returned to his hometown with plans to open a coffee shop in Greenwood. He envisioned his new business as a gathering place for Black business owners who would resurrect Black Wall Street.

But that didn’t happen.

Although new businesses have sprung up all around the Greenwood district, they’re mainly white-owned.

According to The Washington Post, millions of dollars in financial incentives have been spent to revitalize the district ahead of an anticipated influx of tourists for this year’s centennial of the 1921 massacre, and Black entrepreneurs say they are being shut out of Greenwood’s development projects and priced out of prime retail locations.

White owned firms have won the majority of contracts to develop lucrative businesses closest to downtown, according to city officials and business leaders.

WaPo reports that the city has only recently decided to include Blacks in the venture and plan to open up more land for redevelopment — land that is farther from the prestigious Greenwood business district. To Troupe, the city’s proposal feels like “the final execution of a plan” set in motion a century ago when white mobs destroyed nearly $2 million in property ($29 million in today’s dollars).

A lawsuit filed by descendants and one survivor of the Tulsa massacre accuses city, country and business leaders of continuing to enrich themselves at the expense of the Black community by “appropriating” the massacre for tourism and turning Greenwood into a “primarily white-owned commercial hub.”

Read More: Tulsa massacre survivors file lawsuit against city

Troupe, who is not a part of the lawsuit, found that in order to open his coffee shop that he named The Liquid Lounge, he had little choice but to “rent in a gentrified neighborhood from landlords who don’t look like us.”

Troupe along with other Black business owners, who amid the pandemic meet up at the Liquid Lounge, are doubtful that they will benefit in any significant way from Greenwood’s redevelopment.

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