Fire In Little Africa Honors An American Tragedy

More than 60 Oklahoma rappers, producers, poets and musicians come together on the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre for a very special multimedia project

Fire In Little Africa (Art: Ron Hart)

Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the massacre on the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and a powerful new multimedia hip-hop project aims to permanently set the record straight on a great American tragedy.

It was the area dubbed “Black Wall Street” thanks to the serendipity of the section getting developed on the same property that had a wealth of oil beneath the ground. It was a promising start to Black Americans gaining their own footing in a country that brought them here against their will for a life of torture, suffering and indentured servitude.

Then on the morning of May 30, 1921, a young black man named Dick Rowland was riding in the elevator in the Drexel Building at Third and Main with a white woman named Sarah Page, where he was alleged to have raped her. However, once it hits the city’s white community it became more and more confabulated with each telling. Police would arrest Rowland the next day, but it didn’t satiate the bloodlust brewing among the angry white men against the black community. 

In the early morning hours of June 1, 1921, Greenwood was looted and burned by violent whites. Governor Robertson declared martial law, and National Guard troops arrived in Tulsa. Guardsmen assisted firemen in putting out fires, taking African Americans out of the hands of vigilantes and imprisoned over 6,000 black Tulsans at the Convention Hall and the Fairgrounds, some for over a week.

In the wake of this maddening violence, 35 city blocks lay in charred ruins, more than 800 people were treated for injuries and contemporary reports of deaths began at 36. Historians now believe as many as 300 people may have died.

“Little Africa on Fire”: Tulsa Race Riot June 1st, 1921 (Photo: Google)

Released on May 28th with the help of Motown, the Fire In Little Africa album is the sonic arm of an expansive multimedia project honoring the importance of this unfortunate event for its 100th anniversary year. The 21-track album packed with rappers, producers, poets, musicians and more. Among the 60 names featured on the album include Steph Simon, Dialtone, St. Domonick, Sneak the Poet, Dr. View, Ayilla, Jerica Wortham, Hakeem Eli’Juwon, Verse, Thomas Who?, Parris Chariz, M.C., Surron the 7th, Ausha LaCole, Ray June, Tony Foster Jr., Written Quincey, Sterling Matthews, Chris the God, MC Cain, Keeng Cut, Jarry Manna, Doc Free, Jacobi Ryan, Young DV, K.O., Creo, iamDES, Yung Qwan, Shyheim, Earl Hazard, Lawrence Leon, Omaley B, Tizzi, Krisheena Suarez, Tea Rush, Medisin, Jacc Spade, 2peece, Papa, “Jimmi” Joe Bruner, WoRm, Xanvas, Malitmotives, Sentro, NOLO, Am’re Ford, the Vampire Youth, Damion Shade, Keezy Kuts, Bambi, Playya 1000, Lester Shaw, the GRAE, Jay Mizz, Foolie Foolie, Savvy Kray, Jabee, Deezy, SoufWessDes, Seriously K5ive, Original Flow, Ali Shaw, Beetyman, Sid Carter, Deeksta, 4wop, and Bezel 365.

Most of the album was created in the heart of Greenwood at the Greenwood Cultural Center – a significant community space which was flipped to house six recording studios for the weekend. The artists took over the former home of 1921 massacre mastermind and KKK leader Tate Brady and flipped that into recording studios as well. The former ‘Brady Mansion’ is now the Skyline Mansion – an event venue owned by former NFL first-round draft pick and Tulsa-native Felix Jones.

 

VIDEO: Fire In Little Africa documentary trailer

Additionally, Fire in Little Africa also includes a forthcoming documentary film covering the legendary album recording weekend, as well as a weekly podcast discussing art, music and entrepreneurship with rotating guests of artists, community leaders, and nationally relevant voices in hip-hop, culture and social justice. Most importantly, there will be a curriculum designed for school districts, colleges, museums and corporate offices and will translate themes developed from album and film content into an educational view book. This book will include illustrations, paintings and photographs by Tulsa artists. 

“Fire in Little Africa is a powerful and timely project that provides a platform and outlet for the incredibly talented and thriving music community of Tulsa, Oklahoma,” said Motown Records chairman and CEO Ethiopia Habtemariam. “Carrying the legacy of the Black Wall Street community, Fire in Little Africa is a body of work filled with purpose and prolific storytelling. I am honored and feel privileged to have Motown Records/Black Forum partner with Dr. View, the Bob Dylan Center and Guthrie Center to release this impactful hip-hop album.”

For more information on the Fire In Little Africa project, visit fireinlittleafrica.com.

 

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Ron Hart

Ron Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Rock and Roll Globe. Reach him on Twitter @MisterTribune.

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