Juneteenth Reflections: The Resilience of Black Wall Street and the Path Forward

Dear Friends and Allies, 

I am honored to share some thoughts on a day of tremendous significance: Juneteenth. It is a moment of deep reflection and remembrance, a moment of jubilation and resolution, and a moment of hope for Black Americans. 

Juneteenth, the day we commemorate the end of slavery in the United States, offers us an opportunity to both celebrate the progress we’ve made and to recognize the challenges we have yet to overcome. It is a reminder that the road to equality is long and often arduous, but we are a people built on strength and resilience. We persist. 

This Juneteenth, I want to cast the spotlight on a historical symbol of Black entrepreneurial spirit and economic power: Black Wall Street. In the early 20th century, the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma, more commonly known as Black Wall Street, was a beacon of African American prosperity and self-sufficiency. Despite the grim shadow of segregation and systemic racism, this community thrived. Black-owned businesses, banks, and institutions created an environment where the dollar circulated within the community, empowering individuals and fostering economic growth. 

Yet, as it has repeatedly happened to thriving Black communities in our history, the prosperity of Black Wall Street was violently extinguished during the Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921. This devastating event serves as a stark reminder that progress, no matter how significant, can be brutally disrupted. 

Today, the spirit of Black Wall Street is being rekindled. Across the country, a resurgence of Black-centered cooperative economics is taking place, fueled by a collective desire to create wealth for our families and upend the oppressive systems that have limited prosperity within our communities for far too long. This rekindling is a testament to our tenacity, but we must remain vigilant against the systemic challenges that still persist and continue to strive for equity and economic justice.  My walk on the streets of what remain of Black Wall Street and visiting the Black Wall Street Museum captured not only the pain of that dark moment but feeling the resurrection of the spirit of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, cheering those who are determined to rebuild to fight on.  

Let us continue to build, invest, and believe in our communities, working to close the racial wealth gap – a crucial step for true equality. At the Alliance, we are at the helm of this work. We will continue to support the Black-led CDFIs and the communities they serve, fostering economic growth and providing opportunities where they have been historically scarce.  We Unapologetically desire the best for our communities.  We also Believe and are committed to redesigning systems to benefit the most marginalized.  

Juneteenth is a celebration of resilience. As we honor our history, let us remember, our prosperity is linked, our progress intertwined. The fight against financial disparity is not a solitary battle, but a collective pursuit towards a brighter, more equitable future. 

Let’s also use this day as a call to action, a reminder that the work continues. Together, we can create a future that truly reflects the dreams of our ancestors and the promise of our potential.   

May the legacy of Black Wall Street continue to inspire us to strive for economic empowerment, equity, and justice with the resolve of the powerful words of “Still We Rise.” 

Be Steadfast! 

Lenwood V. Long, Sr. 

President & CEO – African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs