Fire in Little Africa [TULSA, OK]

What took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma Greenwood District in the early 1920s represents white jealousy of black excellence. While many were still gaining their footing prior to the Great Depression, black people established their own thriving community in the Southwest. It was said that every dollar spent would pass through 18 different black hands before it left the Greenwood District. 

Movie theaters, restaurants, hotels, pharmacies and shops all equated to black ownership. Professionals, skilled craftsmen and service people all personified the idea that in order to succeed you must own what you labor.

Not only did they have a stronghold on that sector of Oklahoma they were expanding into other surrounding regions.That was until the KKK joined forces with the police and burnt the entire mini-civilization to the ground. 

You know the story – black boy makes advances at white girl – framed as heinous Negro assault on white woman and uproar ensues. A white man tried to disarm a black man – gun went off – armed destruction inbound. Hell, even some civil officials weaponized and deputized white rioters in this insidious movement.

White pilots dropped dynamite over the flourishing area – one of the first times Americans would inflict air raid upon their own soil. The damage destroyed the village. Some intended to rebuild and did so successfully. Only to fall on the sword of urban renewal, fire ordinances and insurance companies failing to issue property claim repayment.

Fire in Little Africa artists pictured in front of the Skyline Mansion, a now Black-owned venue originally built by a KKK leader who helped orchestrate the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. This photo is inspired by a group photo of original Black Wall Street business owners from before 1921. Photo Credit: Ryan Cass

Some 100 years later, Motown Records and Black Forum live to tell the story of black prosperity through the project, “Fire in Little Africa.” Black Forum originated in the realm of spoken word with its first project in 1970. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. won a Grammy on Gordy Records (Motown subsidiary) for his spoken word piece – Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam.

This project is purposeful, necessary, proactive and provides great synergy. Covering such a wide range of emotions across the diaspora these Tulsa artists certainly met their mark. 

FILA was recorded in former KKK member’s Tate Brady home – now owned by former Dallas Cowboy Felix Jones who is a Tulsa native.

Music is always reflective of the times. Sometimes joy is the greatest form of activism. Process the pain through the tunes. 


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