A Mississippi man, along with his three sons, has closed on a million-dollar deal to develop a strip mall in his local community to turn the area into a local version of “Black Wall Street,” a collective of early 20th century black-owned businesses in a district in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The 20-unit property will be named Greenwood Plaza.
“I’ve always had a heart to help others succeed, but to do that I first had to succeed,” says Tony A. Reimonenq Jr., CEO of his family business, Reimonenq & Co LLC. “I’ve dreamed of having a location from which others like myself can work and draw inspiration from Tulsa’s Greenwood District.”
He added that he has dreamed of having a commercial space where like-minded people can draw inspiration from Black Wall Street.
“I want to empower the people at the bottom of the pyramid who just need an opportunity,” he explained. “They aren’t lazy. They work hard but just haven’t learned how to win yet. I know how and want to link up with them to be a part of helping to not only change the trajectory of their lives and the lives of their families but of our communities as a whole. I see it as a civic duty.”
Around 1900, Tulsa began to flourish as a result of an oil boom in Oklahoma. In 1906, Ottawa W. Gurley, a wealthy black landowner purchased 40 acres of land, which he vowed to only sell to black homesteaders.
Knowing freemen would move to Tulsa, he built a grocery store on a street in an area area residents named Greenwood, after a Mississippi town. Gurley created residential and commercial lots, which blossomed into luxury hotels, and properties for professionals like doctors and lawyers.
“Greenwood was perceived as a place to escape oppression—economic, social, political oppression—in the Deep South,” says Hannibal B. Johnson, a Tulsa-based historian. “It was an economy born of necessity. It wouldn’t have existed had it not been for Jim Crow segregation and the inability of Black folks to participate to a substantial degree in the larger white-dominated economy.”