Black Wallstreet Grand Rapids is living its mission of developing Black business districts in West Michigan. The organization announced a $100 million capital campaign, which will take place over 16 years, to expand economic and tourism opportunity.
President, co-founder and director, Preston Sain, said details of the campaign pay remembrance to the original Black Wallstreet in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The area, which sat in the Greenwood District, was a thriving business community but was destroyed in the Tulsa Massacre of 1921 when it was invaded by white rioters.
Sain said the $100 million goal represents the 100 year anniversary of the massacre, which takes place on June 1, 2021. The 16 year timeline pays homage to the 16 years of wealth Black business owners in Tulsa built.
"We had Black wealth. Black economics was great. We supported each other the Black dollar circulated through the community multiple times before it ever left. We want to recreate that reality but this time with diversity and inclusion as there is no segregation this time around," Sain explained.
The group is working to secure pledges from 100 investors, some of which are out of state. Sain said the goal is to have each business donate $62,500 per year.
"We know that in 2015 we were the second-worst city economically for Blacks in the USA, so we are actively and intentionally looking to be a solution to that particular crisis. We want to be the best. We feel like we have the potential to be that missing piece. We want to change the tale of two cities that we have had historically," he said.
Sain adds the "real work" will start in February when Black Wallstreet GR announces its nonprofit fiduciary partner for the campaign, a move he said will make all pledge donations 100% tax deductible.
The director said his team has seen at outpour of support, from community members to city officials. He cautions naysayers from only looking at the "headline" of the issue.
"This is not segregation at all. We live in a world where we have integration…It’s important to have diverse people at the table because you’re gonna get innovation, such as Black Wallstreet when you do that. That’s what we’ve had to do ourselves, create our own table, but it’s for the bigger table of the city," Sain said.