Two formative forces are set to meet Saturday, June 20. President Trump is set to visit Tulsa, the city of The Black Wall Street, and hold a rally with supporters of his re-election as president of the United States.
During this time of civil unrest and the 2020 Civil War, Trump will need to navigate shaky ground coming to Tulsa. Not only is there a COVID-19 pandemic with cases increasing in Tulsa, but outrage over police brutality toward unarmed black men is overshadowing his visit. Trump intends to visit Tulsa, which only has a black population of 11 percent, but is the backdrop of the most documented massacre of black people in America during the 1921 Race Massacre, which killed hundreds of black Americans at the hands of white Americans.
Trump is the president of the U.S. and should be welcomed in any state, regardless of the delegates awarded to him. But Trump has a perfect storm ahead of him. The country is in a recession; there is a global pandemic; there are protests and violence in the streets by police and everyday citizens; there are peaceful Americans demanding change; and this is an election year. With any presidential visit comes uncertainty, anger, and joy.
In the African American community, The Black Wall Street is legendary, not only due to the hundreds of businesses built during the Great Depression, but also because of the spirit of the entrepreneurs, leaders, supporters, and visionaries who built The Black Wall Street in the Greenwood District of North Tulsa. The lack of integrated schools, businesses, churches, and social venues caused black Tulsans to create, build, and support their own communities. They were not allowed to cross the railroad tracks that separated North Tulsa from South Tulsa, unless it was to work. The segregation meant that all the black scholars, thinkers, risk-takers, educators, and landowners kept to their side of town and enhanced it the best they could – and it flourished. To this day, the community has not seen an explosion of growth as it did in the early 1900s.
Trump does not poll well with African Americans, though many are conservative on a variety of topics, such as religion and family values. Trump will be less than 10 minutes away from The Black Wall Street when he speaks. There is opposition to his coming to the area of North Tulsa, which is prominently black, due to many divisive comments by the president. When he touts low black unemployment without a direct plan or initiative to increase the employment of African American people, it hurts and angers many who feel they went out and earned the job without any help from the government. Now if Trump were to introduce an African American Jobs Bill targeting training centers, internships, incentives for hiring and promoting black people, and offer grants for black-owned businesses to hire black employees, that would show a direct initiative to increase black employment.
The Black Wall Street is both a shining light and bad mark on Tulsa’s history, but we must all remember the current residents in Tulsa, black or white, did not pull the triggers to kill fellow Tulsans during the massacre of 1921. If Trump decides to tour The Black Wall Street, he should assure the black community he will not use the footage in campaign ads. He should embrace the moment and allow the spirits of the ancestors to see him walking down the streets that were once burned during a race-related altercation. The president could stop in to The Black Wall Street Gallery and purchase a painting from a local artist. He could stop at Frio’s and get a Popsicle. He could tour the historic Greenwood Cultural Center and see the images of racism, progress, and empowerment, or the basement of the historic Vernon Chapel AME Church, which is documented as the last surviving structure from the 1921 unrest.
Tulsa is a great city, and Trump has an opportunity to show respect to both his supporters and those who may not support him at all. Tulsa is better when the city works for everyone. Trump can learn of the great history of The Black Wall Street and have a successful visit.
Corey Carolina is an NSU graduate, North Tulsa entrepreneur and activist, and owner of Carolina Food Co., which produces Toasted Wine Fruit Spreads. He is also an author, his first book being "The Absent Father."