Kauffman Foundation Explores “How to Rebuild Black Wall Street For Us All” at South by Southwest

More than a century has passed since the devastating Tulsa Race Massacre, an event that marked the destruction of the affluent Greenwood District, famously known as “Black Wall Street,” by white mobs in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Following this dark chapter, Black business districts across the nation faced disruption and decline, grappling with systemic barriers that hindered Black entrepreneurs from accessing essential resources such as capital, knowledge, and networks needed for success.

Recognizing the importance of addressing this issue and ensuring inclusivity in entrepreneurship, we engaged a panel of experts in a discussion at the renowned South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, in March 2022. Led by Philip Gaskin, the Vice President of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation, the panel delved into critical questions about the historical prosperity of Black business districts, the factors hindering their resurgence, and actionable steps to support a revitalization that benefits entrepreneurs of color and strengthens entire economies.

The panel explored the historical context, acknowledging the thriving Black business districts during times of segregation and Jim Crow. The discussion highlighted the need for systemic change, emphasizing not only access to capital but also access to knowledge and a broader understanding of the significance of business in generating wealth.

Insights from panelists such as Karen Freeman-Wilson, Melissa Harris-Perry, and Neo Frank emphasized the impossibility of replicating Black Wall Street in today’s fully integrated society. Instead, they emphasized the importance of reimagining what success looks like for Black business owners in the 21st century.

Melissa Harris-Perry underscored the distinction between wealth and income, noting that addressing the wealth gap requires more than individual efforts. Neo Frank called for a paradigm shift that recognizes Black brilliance, creativity, and ingenuity, advocating for policies that level the playing field by increasing access to opportunity, funding, knowledge, and support.

In conclusion, the panel emphasized the urgent need for a collaborative approach involving policymakers, private industry, and philanthropy to dismantle barriers and create opportunities for Black entrepreneurs. The goal is to foster a more inclusive future that celebrates Black excellence and contributes to the overall economic empowerment of communities across the nation.

Original Source (Ewing Marion Kaufman Foundation)



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