by Gloria Dulan-Wilson
I truly admire the wonderful research, time, attention, imagination and creativity that has gone into this piece. It’s wonderful to know that you’re on the case.
However – you need to do the back story before the back story – and look at the fact that Oklahoma was once primarily Original American and Black – or Indian and Black – it was a territory where whites were not allowed to live or even be in without express permission.
Also document the fact that most of the redneck whites who participated in the Oklahoma ruin of 1889 were from Missouri, Texas, and Ireland – among other places; but even with their invasion and theft of properties, Black communities continued to thrive and grow. While Black people had been moving to Oklahoma territory since the end of the Civil War because they could own land and not have to deal with whites, there were thousands of Black families, and those that were intermarried with Original Americans, already living there – and had been there since the early 1830s as a result of the trail of tears; and as a result of those runaway slaves who were smart enough to know that Indian territory was off limits to whites, and they could not come in and take them back.
Look at the fact that the Original Americans and Blacks thrived – and that Oklahoma had 67 ALL BLACK towns, of which Greenwood was one – most of the towns experienced various levels of prosperity. Boley, Oklahoma was one of them, as well. We still have 13 all Black towns remaining in Oklahoma – that are thriving.
Please read the book about the Simmons Brothers: “Staking A Claim” to get even more clarity about Greenwood – make sure you depict the fact that Blacks had guns and fought back against whites – we weren’t just sitting ducks. We still own our own guns – my dad had 7. However, unlike some other states who have established ersatz open carry laws, it doesn’t mean open season.
Also in your retelling of the story – the movie version – please make sure you recount the fact that Greenwood was rebuilt and thrived until the 60s when they dumped all their own progress for the promise of (dis) Integration – which is what ultimately killed a lot of Black businesses. We had somehow begun to believe that the white man’s Ice was colder.
I visited Tulsa and Greenwood in 1993 – and was told by one of the remaining residents of the fact that Black businesses began to close as the result of people thinking they could get better services, etc from the white businesses. A friend of mine and I were eating in one of the few remaining restaurants in the community.
The assault on prosperous Black communities by jealous whites is definitely a factor, but our subconscious brainwashing was most certainly the true reason for the demise of a community that had actually risen like a phoenix from the ashes – only to be their own self destruction.
That’s the story they don’t tell you.
The disservice the documentary “Black Wall Street” has done to the memory of all those who worked to rebuild the city is as bad as telling the story itself. It left you with the destruction, but no knowledge of the resurrection. It’s what my mother would call a half truth. In the understanding that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, knowing the entire story, and in the retelling, making sure you include those important facts, will be even more liberating and instructive to our people.
As an Oklahoman, born and raised, I definitely want people to know that we did not roll over and play dead just because of some rednecks who thought that they could destroy us with some guns. It’s one of the horrific factors that Blacks are continuing to be mesmerized by to this day: The “look what they did to us” syndrome, is played over and over and over again – a litany of their evil – all true; but what happens is we become hypnotized by that and fail to look at what we’ve done and can do for ourselves. We have to begin to recognize, honor and replicate our strengths and the strengths of our ancestor/angels. We have to know that we – when we unite – are a mighty force. And that’s the lesson of Greenwood that was never taught.
Stay Blessed &
bullet Columnist Gloria Dulan-Wilson Is a veteran New York City Journalist. Her experiences, perspective & sense of history are an invaluable combination. “check out my blog:” www.gloria-dulan-wilson.blogspot.com