Black Wall Street has become synonymous with wealth within the African American community, with the legacy of black-owned businesses during a time when many were just one or two generations removed from slavery. Today, the businesses in Oklahoma’s historic Greenwood District are struggling to stay afloat during the global coronavirus pandemic which causes the disease COVID-19, spreading around the country.
As of Friday, its brick-and-mortar businesses will not be open for the foreseeable future after a city order required the closure of restaurants and entertainment venues in reaction to the increased spread of COVID-19. Tulsa is one of the many cities including New York City and San Francisco to go under a mandatory stay-at-home order, shutting down all non-essential businesses.
“I am nervous because like everyone else, we know so little,” said Venita Cooper who owns Silhouette Sneakers, a highly curated retail shop that features limited and authentic sneakers and streetwear that opened last November in the area, to Tulsa World. “We’re all going to have to figure out how to walk that line of being the business people know us as while trying to generate revenue in different ways.”
Of the 27 Black Wall Street businesses under the umbrella of the Greenwood Chamber, roughly a dozen operations have been forced to temporarily cease operations while others are continuing limited operations through their online platforms.
“For proprietors within the confines of Black Wall Street, concerns about the global pandemic have affected all businesses,” said Freeman Culver, president and chief executive officer at the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce. “Our businesses on Black Wall Street are doing their best to adjust to such a time as this. Unlike many other areas like New York City, where you still see large groups of people walking around touring the area, shopping and getting carry-out food as usual, [local] Tulsans are a little more hesitant today to go downtown and tour or support a Greenwood business.”