This month is dedicated to recognizing, celebrating, and sharing all the invaluable contributions generations of Black Americans have made in our communities, economy, and around the world both in the past and the present. Before I begin talking about current African Americans, I think it’s important to also recognize those who came before us.
In the early 1900’s, my great-grandfather Lafayette Wilson was the owner of the Lafayette Hotel on what was colloquially known as “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa Oklahoma. This prominent area was known as Greenwood. His father, my great-great grandfather Hezekiah Wilson, owned HT Real Estate in the prestigious area of Greenwood. The Wilson family also owned a well known barber shop named Wilson Barbershop, which I envision was packed with fathers and their sons sitting around conversing about everything going on in the world while getting their haircut. I know the sense of community and pride for African Americans was at an all time high in Greenwood.
That was until the Tulsa Race Massacre, also known as the Tulsa Race Riot or the Black Wall Street massacre. This two-day-long white mob riot took place on May 31 and June 1, 1921. Mobs of white residents, some of whom had been appointed as deputies and armed by city government officials, attacked black residents, destroying homes and businesses of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There were also accounts of private planes flying over dropping bombs on innocent people in their homes. The event is considered one of the worst incidents of racial violence in American history. The attackers burned and destroyed more than 35 square blocks of the neighborhood—at the time one of the wealthiest black communities in the United States- leveling Black Wall Street.
About 10,000 black people were left homeless, and the cost of the property damage amounted to more than $1.5 million in real estate and $750,000 in personal property (equivalent to $36.92 million in 2022). Some of the residents rebuilt, but the city and insurance companies refused to compensate them. Many survivors left Tulsa, while residents who chose to stay in the city, kept silent about the terror, violence, and resulting losses for several decades. The massacre was largely omitted from local, state, and national histories.
This story is near and dear to me because my lineage is a part of Black Wall Street. All of my family’s hard work and prosperity was destroyed due to caucasians resenting their upper class lifestyle. The fact that you can decide to walk in and destroy over 35 blocks of a hardworking and prosperous community is mind blowing. Black Wall Street had over 300 businesses including banks, hotels, cafes, movie theaters, clothiers, barbershops, real estate companies and more. This doesn’t include their prestigious neighborhoods that each and every one of them built from the foundation up.
In honor of my great-great grandfather and great-grandfather, it is only right for me to continue telling this story. If you get the chance, definitely visit and support the Greenwood Rising History Center, which tells the story of the Greenwood Community by bringing it to life. The legacy of these hard working people will live on in me and my children. All of their hard work and fortitude will live on and legacy will prevail. There are many Black Americans that also feel the same. They have continued the lineage of entrepreneurship, hard work, building community and sharing with their offspring the past while encouraging them in the present. It is all of our responsibility to support these black owned businesses.
Author, journalist and historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson advocated strongly for national recognition and understanding of Black history, while building the foundation for what would eventually become Black History Month. Woodson envisioned a time “when all Americans would willingly recognize the contributions of Black Americans as a legitimate and integral part of the history of this country.”
Consumer power is, well… powerful.
I believe that how we spend our money has an extraordinary ability to impact our world for the better. And we’ve been reminded in the last couple of years that so many others share these beliefs. We have seen countless campaigns to support Black-owned businesses, and lists of Black-owned brands are hitting our social media feeds. While many of us are encouraged by this evolving urgency to spend our dollars more intentionally, we know that sustaining these habits will require us to spend some time sitting with WHY it’s so important.
To help you find Black-owned businesses quickly, here are a few resources. Online databases such as The Nile List and Official Black Wall Street offer robust directories of Black-owned small businesses across industries and geographies.
Now, we all know that the Super Bowl is in Las Vegas this year, and it is only fitting to highlight some Black-owned businesses you may want to check out while you are there. If you won’t be at the Super Bowl, you can also save this valuable info for the next time you visit Las Vegas. My goal is to visit and support black owned businesses wherever I travel to and share some suggestions with you. Remember, each dollar that you spend at a Black-owned business helps to keep that business thriving, allowing the business to create more jobs and opportunities, and helps to decrease income inequality, while supporting the business’s local economy.
As I prepare for my LIVE Super Bowl Podcast in Las Vegas, here are a few businesses that you should consider:
Location: The Forum Shops At Caesars Palace 3500 S Las Vegas Boulevard Las Vegas, Nevada 89109
Designated the most instagrammable cafe in Nevada, Cafe Lola is a perfect spot to go with your girlfriends!. Founded by Lin Jerome and Alexandra Lourdes, two women who wanted to put a glamorous spin on a traditional European café. Check it out for insta-worthy signature lattes paired with a delicious brunch menu.
Location: 855 E Twain Ave, Suite 118, Las Vegas, NV 89169 or 5625 S Rainbow Blvd Ste D, Las Vegas, NV 89169
Enjoy a sweet treat or beat the heat at Philly Freeze-Me. Enjoy three styles of Freezies; Classic, Spiked & Specialty. Enjoy flavors like strawberry cheesecake, long island iced tea or indulge your senses with the sweet spicy mango.
The founder of Philly Freeze-Me, Chase Corbin, set out to bring authentic Italian ice to Las Vegas. His business caters to adults, children, and families. Philly Freeze-Me has several incentives for kids who have good grades, perfect attendance, and great marks in sports. I love to see local businesses involved and supporting their community.
Legends Barber Studio
Location: 9800 West Skye Canyon Park Drive #130, Las Vegas, Nevada 89166
Whether you want a haircut, fade, beard trim, or even a kids cut, Las Vegas locals love Legends Barber Studio. They also offer online booking and have complimentary still and sparkling water. This makes me think of my family and the barber shop they owned.
Location: 2027 Revere St, Las Vegas, NV 89106
Multicultural Bookstore is the first brick and mortar Black-owned book store in Las Vegas in over a decade. Inside, owners Tamara Shiloh and Carol Santiogo have curated a collection and space that is safe, inclusive, and welcoming to all of the communities it serves. In the words of co-owner Tamara Shiloh, “I guess what sets us apart is most of our books are face-forward so that when children walk in, they see themselves, and they realize there are books written about them as well.” Love this.
Location: 1028 E Fremont St Suite 111, Las Vegas, NV 89101
Tofu Tees was founded in 2016 by then 8-year old activist Kumei Norwood. Norwood, now 15, leverages her platform to bring consistent attention to social issues. The store sells tees, pins, stickers, and various accessories through the online store or at the physical location. Tofu Tees also hosts regular civic events for the community and also holds a monthly food drive in partnership with The Solidarity Fridge.
The Coffee Class
Location: 8878 S Eastern Ave #102, Las Vegas, NV 89123
After a long night or eventful day, get your caffeine fix at The Coffee Class. You’ll love their take on coffee as it is made to order, and hand poured. Try the Brown Buttered Latte, Rose Tea Latte (topped with edible petals) or fuel your body with some delicious avocado toast or Creme Brûlée french toast. Sounds perfect for the morning after the Super Bowl or a night out at the Casino.
Location: 353 E. Bonneville Ave STE 111 Las Vegas, NV 89101
Las Vegas is all about the nightlife! Enjoy your evening at Classic Jewel, a cocktail lounge that offers a relaxed but glamorous atmosphere with a 1950’s twist. Indulge in crafted cocktails and delicious eats. Located in the Juhl high rise.
Location: Forum Shops, Caesars Palace, 3570 S Las Vegas Blvd Las Vegas, NV 89109
Good American Co owned by Emma Grede is having their Grand opening the Friday & Saturday before Super Bowl. Check out the store here. Emma Grede is working intentionally by creating opportunities by shifting over $14 billion to Black Entrepreneurs and businesses. This is amazing to see and I look forward to sharing more about Good American an amazing partnership with my Podcast called InsideLINES Podcast. Come support my podcast on Thursday, February 8th at 2pm as we highlight amazing intellectually driven women that are passionately and unapologetically knocking down doors and making a huge imprint in this world. See flyer HERE.
The Final Word
Whether you get a chance to visit these businesses this week during the Super Bowl, or the next time you have a Vegas weekend, remember that where you spend your money counts. By supporting Black-owned businesses whenever you can, you give back in more ways than one. I am thankful for my lineage and their resilience through some of the most traumatizing times in American History. I too will do my part to continue sharing and supporting. I hope you can come check out my LIVE Podcast in Vegas! Please come say hi to me! Stay tuned for more Black History and please never forget the story of Black Wall Street!!!