Black Wall Street silently touching Little Village

Little Africa on fire. Tulsa Race Riot, June 1...

Little Africa on fire. Tulsa Race Riot, June 1st, 1921 This photo was taken from on top of the Santa Fe Freight office at 1st St. and Elgin Ave., showing the fires on Archer towards Greenwood. The Goodner-Malone company (1 N. Frankfurt) building is in the center of the photo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(Originally posted on The Daily O’Collegian February 6, 2013)

As the celebration of Black History Month (February) begins, we cannot forget how the African-American community has impacted all U.S. communities by breaking the racial barriers.

These people include Dr. Marin Luther King’s Civil Rights marches, Jesse Owens’ spectacular showing at the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin, Rosa Parks’ standing up for herself when she refused to sit in the back of the bus, Michael Jackson’s international music impact and the number of other prominent Civil Right leaders and legends that made impacts in sports, business and communities.

What has been forgotten by some but not all is the silent impact that Black Wall Street in Tulsa had on minority communities throughout the United States. Black Wall Street was a section of the Greenwood community of northern Tulsa in the early 1900’s with thriving entrepreneurs of black-owned businesses ranging from grocery stores, medical and law offices to newspapers. Black Wall Street was thriving and booming with African-Americans from all over the south moving to the Greenwood community to get a piece of the action.

Unfortunately the hatred by some and miss-happenings of the incident sparked outrage that led to the destruction of Black Wall Street. The thriving entrepreneurial spirit of Black Wall Street came to a closing starting May 30, 1921.

Although Greenwood today is not a reflection of Black Wall Street of the 1900s, the entrepreneurial spirit that was started with Black Wall Street has silently continued in minority communities throughout the U.S.

One community recognized as a thriving entrepreneurial community is Little Village, which is in the South Side Lawndale community of Chicago located north of the Stevenson Expressway (I-55).

Little Village is known as the “Mexico of the Midwest,” and let me tell you it is very true and has been named by Mayor Rahm Emanuel as the “2nd Magnificent Mile” because of the $1,000 billion plus in sales generated on a yearly basis. For those who do not know, the Chicago Magnificent Mile it is the shopping enclave of Downtown Chicago.

Little Village was once a dominant German, Czech (Bohemian) and later on Polish community to what is now present day dominant Hispanic community, mostly if not all of Mexican descent. When you walk around Little Village community you forget that you’re even in the U.S. because it literally feels that you’re in Mexico. Sorry spring breakers, it is not like party-town Cancun but an actual Mexican town that you would see in non-spring break vacation cities.

Little Village thrives on the entrepreneurial spirit ranging from the survival businesses of people selling fruit, corn on the cob (Mexican style) and ice cream. There are lifestyle businesses such as restaurants, clothing stores and music shops all the way to manage growth of businesses.

Let me tell you the Mexican food restaurants in Little Village are by far the best. Not many can match the taste of what real Mexican food is like in Little Village. Being in Stillwater, I have yet to find the same quality.

Just as the entrepreneurial spirit sparked the success of African-Americans of the 1900s Black Wall Street in Tulsa, its spark has silently touched the Mexican community of Little Village in the South Side of Chicago.

This Black History Month, not only are we celebrating the success of prominent African-Americans but also remembering what Black Wall Street did for the African-American community of Greenwood.

As we celebrate Black History Month, organizations such as the E-Club will be having a Black Wall Street Celebration reflecting upon the entrepreneurial history in the African-American communities throughout the U.S.

© Jose L. Fulgencio 2013

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