SEATTLE – May 31 marks 101 years since Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma was destroyed by the hands of a violent mob of white people.
In observance of Memorial Day, Africatown Community Land Trust honored the legacy of the prosperous neighborhood by showcasing local Black entrepreneurship at the Black Wall Street Expo and Marketplace.
“This is something that builds the economy of the Black community. This is something that supports the Black community and our history and our legacy because if our stories aren’t told, then they’re erased. And we’re here in our community to no longer be erased. We’re here showcasing our Black brilliance and we’re here to stay,” said Elijah Lewis, community builder for Africatown.
This was Africatown Community Land Trust’s third year hosting the event in the Central District on 23rd and Jackson. The organization gathered more than 200 vendors across Western Washington to highlight their businesses.
“People showed up today to show their businesses, to display their products. This is Black excellence, Black business,” said the owner of Deff Jemz, headquartered in Tacoma.
Black Wall Street perished in 1921. Hundreds of lives were lost, More than 1,200 homes were destroyed, every business was ruined, and its history was erased for decades. Though a massacre of that nature has not been repeated—Seattle’s historically Black Central District has felt its own culture being erased.
“We see that this is the epitome of what gentrification looks like. Unfortunately the Black community has really been wiped away from this block. So, it’s important that we bring Black brilliance to this block in particular. We also know there’s a lot of violence that’s taken place on this block throughout the history of the Central District. So, this is really about reclaiming the block, but it’s also about giving these new residents an opportunity to learn what was here before they got here,” said TraeAnna Holiday, emcee of the event.
The event was also an opportunity for the public to explore Black business beyond 23rd and Jackson.
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“I feel like this is one of the only opportunities to be able to do that at this level in this place during this time. But it shouldn’t be the only time that people reach out and seek Black community and Black business owners,” said Chelsey Richardson, author of All Water Has Perfect Memory.
Africatown’s mission is to empower and preserve the Black community through acquiring, developing, and stewarding land in Seattle.