At the turn of the 20th century, African Americans founded and developed the Greenwood district in Tulsa, Oklahoma which became proudly known as Black Wall Street. The community grew and flourished as a Black economic and cultural mecca – until May 31, 1921. That’s when a white mob rampaged through some 35 square blocks, decimating the community. The violence was sparked by an alleged assault by 19 year-old Afro-American Dick Rowland, on the 17 year-old, white elevator operator Sarah Page. According to the most accepted accounts, on entering the elevator Rowland tripped, and to save himself from falling, grabbed the arm of the elevator operator, Sarah Page. Startled, Page screamed, and a white clerk in a first-floor store called police to report seeing Rowland flee from the elevator. The white clerk reported the incident as an attempted assault.
Armed rioters, many deputized by local police, looted and burned down businesses, homes, schools, churches, a hospital, hotel, public library, newspaper offices and more. It is estimated that up to 300 people were killed and over 800 were injured.
The incident known as the Tulsa Race Massacre stands as one most horrific acts of racial violence, and domestic terrorism, ever committed on American soil. Without any prosecution forthcoming from Sarah Page, the case against Dick Rowland was dismissed in September 1921.
This long, but vital premise, introduces us to the single “Black Wall Street” released by the artist Cairo, born Lajuan Cheeks, from Tulsa, Oklahoma. The artist, who has been doing music for over 15 years, has dedicated the song to the 100th anniversary of The Tulsa Massacre, with the will that no-one ever forgets the event. On a template built with heart, wit, and pride, the single is the culmination of history and indignation.
Cairo lays the facts on the line in his narrative, as well as giving us his own personal insight, on the implications brought forth this historical event. He unfolds the discriminating social, cultural and political overtones that Black America has always coexisted with up until this day. He expertly weaves in and out of the easily recognizable and the more ponderable.
On “Black Wall Street”, Cairo treats hip-hop as a universal and conscious language, meant to tell a meaningful story. The song produced by the blind phenom J Breezy from Columbia SC, starts with an assault of drum and bass sounds under Cairo’s resonating rhyme scheme and flow, captivating the listener in complete immersion. With a complex and perfectly restrained emotional register, every element this single has, could be interpreted as inspiring.
The urgency, depth, and resilience in his cadence reiterates Cairo’s magnetism, as he navigates a dynamic beat. Cairo comes at you hard, he pulls no punches – he comes out swinging and delivers. “Black Wall Street”, with its empowering proclamations and buoyant production, feels like just the beginning of something even greater.
Potent in both its sharp delivery and focused imagery, “Black Wall Street” – though based on a specific event – is a political manifesto that antagonizes a system which has never ever seriously contemplated the equality of the black American, in its entire history. And that really is the point this record makes.
PRODUCER: J Brezzy – FB/leroyabraham – Instagram @breezywonder