On the centennial anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre — one of the most disgraceful events in American history (though, really, given the tomfoolery of white America, how can you narrow it down?) — the question begs itself: how far along would Black men and women be in American society as a whole if history’s most violent massacre of Black men and women on June 1, 1921, hadn’t happened?
While Randolph “Randy” Wiggins, venture partner and managing director of Build in Tulsa, doesn’t necessarily want to think about what could have been, he does want people to focus on their future while remembering the past. And, he also thinks that the reconstruction of the Black community in the wake of the Tulsa Race Massacre is a testament to the resilience of a collective — and something that should be used to propel progress forward.
“It’s always amazed me,” he told AfroTech. “I think about the history of Black Wall Street — I think about all the tragedy and trauma that they faced, and how disconnected to the rest of the world they were — and despite facing the worst, despite all of it, they still rebuilt from the ashes.”
In the years following the first World War, racial tensions were at an all-time high in the United States; lynchings were common, and communities were segregated. Such, too, was the case of an area of Tulsa known as Greenwood: while segregated from the rest of white-dominated Oklahoma, it contained a thriving economic area known as Black Wall Street.
In what is, perhaps, unsurprising, Black Wall Street was decimated in the massacre.
“Think of the destruction,” said the Build in Tulsa venture partner. “Think of the human lives lost. And the lack of ability to build multigenerational wealth as a result of the Massacre.”
The resultant disparity in everything from educational to financial opportunities is what Build In Tulsa is looking to address. While noting that with a $5 trillion investment over the course of five years — a sentiment also recently shared by the Biden administration — the disparity in the racial wealth gap can be closed, Build In Tulsa also goes the extra mile and makes it its sole mission to help build the infrastructure to support multi-generational wealth creation in Black communities. Making its official debut on the centennial anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, which destroyed hundreds of Black-owned businesses and residences, Build in Tulsa seeks to recoup what was lost. Their vision moving forward is to reinvigorate Tulsa’s Greenwood District and transform the region into the next tech hub through the future generation of investors and entrepreneurs.
“There has never been a better time to be a Black entrepreneur than now,” said Wiggins. “And what we have to remember is that as much as Black Wall Street was a physical location — a physical location we are now looking to build out with the Black entrepreneur in mind, something few places, if any, do — we also have to remember that, today, Black Wall Street is also a state of mind, too.”
Editorial note: Portions of this interview have been edited and condensed for clarity.