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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

Black entrepreneurs look back on the Tulsa Race Massacre

Walls of the Dunbar School after the fire from the Tulsa Race Massacre, 1921.
George Lane

It's a day of remembrance and perseverance for founders at Black Wallstreet Grand Rapids, as they observe the 100-year anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Preston Sain and Tahj Gillespie have made headlines over the past year, as they work to grow Black entrepreneurship in West Michigan by acquiring and developing properties into Black Business districts.

"Who better than us to do it with the vision in front of us? Like we have the blueprint," Gillespie said.

The organization aims to continue the work seen in the original Black Wall Street in the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The neighborhood operated as one of the most prosperous Black business districts seen in American history, before armed White rioters burned it to the ground in 1921.

"The hurdles we had to overcome was the segregation...the fear, the fear of being successful, because when you see success and you see what happens when success is talked about when it's publicized and then you see the demise of it, you know that was the first domestic terrorism in the United States of America," Gillespie said.

President of Black Wallstreet Grand Rapids, Preston Sain, said there's significant movement by local communities across the nation to rebuild on the idea of Black Wall Street and circulation of the Black dollar in its home neighborhoods. The organization's latest $100 million capital campaign will spur that goal forward, honoring Tulsa's Black businesses.

"The opportunity to right wrongs is a great thing, and we have to be able to know that it’s a new day. It’s a new page. There’s no longer segregation," Sain said, "...We now have to coexist in harmony together with all races, with true diversity and inclusion beyond a catch phrase."

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