TULSA, Oklahoma — “People are power!” That greeting is repeated as groups of people enter the Black Wall Street Gallery in Greenwood, Oklahoma. Those words serve not only as a message upon entering the space, but also a recognition of the communal unity that created the success of the historic Greenwood District, which was also known as Black Wall Street.
The neighborhood of Greenwood was once the center of black wealth in the United States. It was also the site of one of the worst instances of racial violence in U.S. history. In May 1921, the city’s Black Wall Street was decimated. The thriving community, which was made up of black-owned businesses, churches and homes, was bombed and burned to the ground by white mobs after a black man was accused of sexually assaulting a white woman. Thirty-five city blocks of the community were completely destroyed and it’s estimated that up to 300 people were killed. No one was ever prosecuted for the violence.
Today, the Black Wall Street Gallery is part of Black Wall Street Arts, a nonprofit endeavor that includes the new art gallery and a theater company. The idea behind the gallery, which opened last September, was to use art as a vehicle to build community and create dialogue around issues of social justice. The paintings, pictures and sculptures in the gallery are mainly the works of two local artists for “The Conciliation Series.” Each month, the gallery pairs a black artist with a white artist and features their art.
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