On Juneteenth, we celebrate progress while simultaneously acknowledging how much work remains to be done in this country. This Juneteenth comes just after the 100-year anniversary of the Black Wallstreet Massacre on May 31-June 1. It has been 100 years since one of the worst massacres in U.S. history, when hundreds of Black people were horrifically murdered by a mob of white people in what was known as the most prosperous Black community in the United States.
“Juneteenth has always been a difficult celebration for black people on two dimensions. We celebrate that we are no longer enslaved in this country, while realizing that this country has been morally bankrupt for devaluing and enslaving us in the first place. But in Tulsa on May 31 and June 1, on the way to celebrating freedom on June 19, we also mourn every year a massacre that decimated lives and also decimated an important expression of living abundantly in a country that never wanted us.” – Caleb Gale, Slate
Greenwood, the segregated section of Tulsa where the massacre occurred, offered opportunities for Black people and entrepreneurship unlike anything that had been seen before in the United States. In addition to the hundreds of Black people killed, the prosperous town was burned down within a matter of hours. Unfortunately, the Black Wallstreet Massacre was not the only time economic development within the Black community has been stifled in this country. Systemic state led violence against Black entrepreneurism has long been, and continues to be, an issue in the United States.
Despite these challenges, great strides are being taken by Black entrepreneurs to continue empowering the Black community through economic development. An exciting example of this is the New Black Wall Street Market being built in Stonecrest, Georgia. The market is being built by Lecester “Bill” Allen with the mission of increasing the size and number of minority-owned businesses. The development, opening September 2021, will serve as a destination for “family fun, entertainment, retail, gourmet grocery shopping and fine dining,” and will be made up of 100+ shops and restaurants. The New Black Wall Street Market pays homage to the original Black Wall Street, destroyed 100 years ago, in both name and economic opportunity.
Economic development efforts like the New Black Wall Street Market are especially important at this time, as COVID-19 has further increased already existing demographic disparities in areas such as business funding and access to necessary capital. Last year, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York conducted a study which found that 41% of businesses owned by Black people shut down between February-April 2020, while only 17% of white owned businesses did. In addition to this, businesses owned by Black people in metro Atlanta have an average value of $58,085, while the average for white-owned businesses is 11 times higher (Prosperity Now).
Fortunately, the developer of the New Black Wall Street Market is not the only individual creating opportunities like this in Georgia, with many Black entrepreneurs working to increase economic opportunities for the Black community. Another example is The Village at PCM, a Black female-owned business opened in 2020 at Ponce City Market in Atlanta. The owner, Lakeysha Hallmon, brought together 25 local Black business owners and brands to sell their products under one roof. Business models like the New Black Wall Street and the Village at PCM aim to make an economic impact by positioning Black businesses. Economic development opportunities such as these are a great step in furthering the empowerment of the Black community by giving them more space to share their entrepreneurial talents.
Get to the point: As we approach Juneteenth, we celebrate the Black community while facing painful reminders of slavery, the Black Wallstreet Massacre, and the work that remains to be done in this country. Despite the systemic state led violence against Black entrepreneurship prevalent in the United States, Black developers and business owners are making strides to further empower the Black community through economic opportunity. Developments such as the New Black Wall Street Market aid in empowering the Black business community to share their entrepreneurial talents.