By Carmen Davenport
On Saturday, March 30th, an event was held at The Bethel Church to do just that. It was called Black Wall Street Spring, hosted by Gene Dot Com and I must admit, it was an amazing event. His first Black Wall Street event occurred in November of 2018, with a purpose of encouraging people to forgo Black Friday and invest in BOBs instead. That event was such a success, Gene Dot Com decided to hold another one this spring.
“The purpose for this event is to support small businesses,” states Gene. “I believe that if we support each other, then the black dollar will continue to exist and continue to be an impact. Sometimes people forget about the small businesses which are cornerstones for our communities and neighborhoods and tend to get past away due to lack of support.”
The event in Tulsa, Oklahoma drove his decision to create this event in Jacksonville, Fl. Gene expects for this event to grow and continue to be a beacon light for each other.
I had the personal pleasure of meeting many business owners who possess a true desire of bringing value to other peoples’ lives. Approximately 70 vendors to include 5 food vendors were on site. Approximately 30 vendors were unfortunately turned down due to a lack of space. Business owners displayed clothing, body care products, hair care products, jewelry, and natural oils. Service providers such as authors, financial managers, and realtors were in attendance. Teachings on managing children in managing finances were all available.
We are not able to feature all of the businesses but was able to capture a few.
Black Wall Street: What Is It and Why Should We Care
What is it Black Wall Street?
Information of one of the most traumatic events in the history of America is disappearing. Yes, literally. Court records have disappeared and this particular event was accidentally omitted from history books. This event is known as the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, however, it is known by survivors as a massacre. Most of us are aware of the history of segregation and racial tension in America. Blacks were not allowed in white-owned stores, they were not able to use the same amenities whites used nor could they eat in places owned or occupied by whites. In many cases, whites did not want blacks around them.
Blacks in this area were barred from white areas, therefore, they built their own area for shopping, entertainment, surviving and thriving. This area called Greenwood was considered the Black Wall Street of America. There were 108 businesses, 15 doctor offices, 2 schools, 2 movie theaters, banks, pharmacies, barber shops, beauty shops and anything else needed for survival or entertainment. All businesses were black-owned and for blacks only. They dressed exceptionally and elegantly well, suits, ties, and hats for the men and elegant dresses, gloves, and hats for the women. Against popular belief, black people were and still are highly educated, extremely intelligent and most important, thriving survivors.
Since blacks were prevented from the use of white amenities, one would think whites would be satisfied. Unfortunately, that did not solve the problems whites had with blacks. The success of blacks became the next thing whites did not like. Many became jealous of what blacks achieved, such as possessing grand pianos in their living rooms. This jealousy created a range of emotions and whites only needed one little spark to blow the top off their frustrations.
Unfortunately, this little spark occurred on May 31, 1921. Dick Rowland, 19, a black shoe shiner entered an elevator as he had numerous times prior to this day. This elevator was operated by 17-year-old Sarah Page. The doors closed, a scream was heard from Sarah, the doors opened and both ran out of the elevator. Rumor mill was told of an assault which as time went on, turned into a rape by the time it went through the town. Dick was arrested the next day and taken to the courthouse. Approximately 1000 armed whites surrounded the courthouse requesting for Dick to be lynched. Blacks heard of what happened and also went to the courthouse armed to protect this young boy. The size of the black group did not compare to the size of the white group. An argument and tussle ensued between an armed white and black man. A weapon was fired and the white man was shot. This is the moment when literally, all hell broke loose.
That was the spark the white crowd was waiting for. Over 1000 whites headed to the prestigious town of Greenwood. They looted businesses, murdered black people and set fire to 35 blocks of black-owned businesses. 1,200 homes, 108 businesses were burned and over 300 black people were killed. The bodies of these residents have yet to be located. It is believed they were dumped in mass graves.
Survivors recalled seeing planes overhead shooting down as they tried to escape and dropped bombs on their community. For two days, the prestigious town of Greenwood burned to the ground without relief. There were a few survivors who lost everything. They had to create and live in a tent city. Over 2.7 million dollars in insurance claims were filed and submitted however, all were denied.
Why Should We Care?
Nielson 2018 reported American consumer spending at $13,032.30 billion. The Share of the U.S. White Population for 2018 was 76.4 percent with a Buying Power of $12.1 trillion. The Share of the U.S. Black Population for 2018 was 13.4 percent with a Buying Population of $1.3 trillion. The Buying Power of the Black community is expected to grow to $1.5 trillion dollars by 2021.
So you ask, why should we care? We should care because this is hard-earned money the black community contributes to society. We pay state and federal taxes to a society we fight daily to be recognized as equal. We strive to be treated fairly, we fight to protect the lives of our children and we are killed by the hands that should protect us. We are beaten and killed by people who will never like black people and who are never brought to justice. We are falsely or unjustly imprisoned with unacceptable jail or prison sentences as another means of oppression.
We march but our voices are unheard, we vote but our votes are stolen. Those are situations we obviously cannot control. What can be controlled is how each of us invests our hard earned money. If that means supporting Black Owned Businesses (BOB) for our voices to be heard, then we do so. Can you imagine the difference the black community can make by investing black money with BOBs? That is $1.3 trillion dollars placed back in the black communities. It could be invested to help fight homelessness, drive out drugs, provide proper education where our children can learn about their history, and create other black business owners.
This article originally appeared in The Florida Star.