Last week, the nation commemorated 100 years since the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre that killed over 300 Black Americans and destroyed an affluent community known as “Black Wall Street.” Bronx Congressman Ritchie Torres is proposing a bill that would create a day nationally honoring the lives lost and encouraging Black economic empowerment.
If passed, the legislation would establish June 1 as “Black Wall Street Day.” Torres says the day would create national awareness about the Tulsa Race Massacre that took place between May 31 and June 1, 1921 where a white mob destroyed 42 square blocks of Black-owned businesses and 1,200 Black-owned homes in the neighborhood known as Greenwood.
None of the white perpetrators during the massacre were punished or prosecuted, survivors were not paid reparations and some were even falsely indicted for inciting a race riot. The events of the Tulsa Race Massacre have not been taught in schools or made aware of by much of the American population.
Torres held a press conference last week with Councilmember Vanessa Gibson and Bronx District Attorney Darcell Clark to announce the proposal for the day.
“There’s been a systematic attempt to whitewash the single greatest act of racial violence and terrorism in American history,” Torres told the AmNews. “The burning of Black Wall Street, the sheer destruction of $27 million in Black intergenerational wealth left behind a legacy of racial inequality. In the United States, Black homeownership is at historic lows. The gap between Black homeownership and white homeownership is at historic highs.”
Torres says if “Black Wall Street Day” is established, it would ensure the nation never forgets the injustice that took place in 1921. This year’s 100th anniversary commemoration saw several events across the country heightening awareness about the race massacre.
President Joe Biden and several leaders traveled to Tulsa to remember the lives lost and neighborhood destroyed by the event. Biden was the first U.S. President to ever go to the site and commemorate the tragedy.
“The day would underscore the need for race conscious policies,” Torres said. “There is no neutral approach to closing the gaps in homeownership. There’s a study indicating that it would take two centuries to close the gap of racial wealth so we need policies that are specifically aimed at making restitution to communities of color. Most people aren’t aware that African Americans are excluded from homeownership.”
The next steps to making “Black Wall Street Day” a reality is getting signatures in support of the day followed by a Congressional hearing and then a vote.
Black Wall Street Day is currently recognized in Annapolis, Md. and Portland, Ore.