Black Wall Street | Never Forget

Contributed by Lynette Braxton

Never Forget
The café
The street
The church
The People
Lynnette Braxton

DSP Logo - Sq BlMichael Green, Artistic Director of Shades of Truth Theatre and Voza Rivers/New Heritage Theatre Group have produced several American racial history plays. Previous productions include: The Meeting, Camp Logan, and Whistle in Mississippi:The Lynching of Emmett Till. Green brings to the stage another must see installation of ritualized history in this production of Black Wall Street.

Michael Green, Artistic Director of Shades of Truth Theatre. Photo credit: Hollis King.

Amiri Baraka identifies ritualized history as “history that allows emotional and religious participation on the part of the audience.” Black Wall Street retells the moving story of an economically thriving, all-Black community that once was known as “Paradise” for Blacks migrating from the South and other parts of America at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Greenwood, Tulsa, Oklahoma, a diverse community of Blacks, Native Americans, and Jews was built primarily by Blacks for Blacks. It was influential and affluent because of Tulsa’ s liquid black gold—oil.  Their economic independence was envied by its neighboring poor Whites and the KKK.

Elijah Bland, Marlene Villafane, David Roberts ( in background ) and Sean C. Turner in Black Wall Street. Photo credit: Adjua Mantebea | A Delight Productions.

The playwright Celeste Bedford Walker’s major theme is universal—racial genocide prompted by envy and greed. In Black Wall Street Walker focuses on the events and activities of a prominent family and their friends in Greenwood.

Walker’s knowledge of Greenwood and Tulsa’s history is evident thorough a lengthy exposition before arriving at the turning point or crisis at the end of Act I.  She skillfully chronicles the final days and hours of these Greenwood citizens, weaving narratives on familial relationships, financial freedom, civic loyalty, blossoming romance, and the looming jealousy and unleashed terrorism by White Tulsa citizens.

Sean C. Turner, David Roberts, China Colston, Rhonda Akanke McLean Nur, Ricki Lynee ( background ) , Michael Leonard James ( seated ) and Vanessa Shaw ( background ) in Black Wall Street. Photo credit: Adjua Mantebea | A Delight Productions.

Under the direction of Michael Green and Fulton C. Hodges, the overall efforts of the creative team and actors produced an emotional and authentic shared learning experience of Black American history. There were minor inconsistencies in the use of period costumes and within the light and sound design; however, the production was generally successful in depicting the ultimately tragic world of this play.

Not too long ago, I was unaware of the tale of Greenwood.  A Guyanese friend of mine, Charles Gordon shared its story with me. Being from Guyana, he was shocked that I did not know my own American history.

Charles Gordon, circa 1970 and 2014.

Charles Gordon, circa 1970 and 2014.

“It is imperative that you Black Americans know your own history in order to tell your children,” he said.  “In Berbice, Guyana, the Africans started the first slave rebellion for freedom in 1763 for all of the Americas.”

“Our national motto is ‘Never Forget’.  From a small child, from generation to generation, our children are taught who they are—fierce and great! Why don’t you know your history?”  I could only say that I was not taught. He then challenged me to do my own homework.

Jimmy Gary, Jr and David Roberts in Black Wall Street. Photo credit: Adjua Mantebea | A Delight Productions.

In viewing Black Wall Street I was able to put a face to the survivors and victims I have read about in my research. To experience the emotional impact of Greenwood’s devastation brought tears as the stories unfolded on stage.

As a Native American and African American storyteller, Black Wall Street inspires me to continue researching and telling our stories: that we are descendants of ancient chiefs, kings, and queens, and modern entrepreneurs. Our children must learn and never forget their greatness and history.

“And, like all good ritual, its purpose is to make the audience stronger, more sensitive to the historical realities that have shaped our lives and the lives and the lives of our ancestors.”
Amiri Baraka, The Theatre of Black Americans

Michael Leonard James and Rhonda Akanke McLean Nur in Black Wall Street. Photo credit: Adjua Mantebea | A Delight Productions.

Black Wall Street is “good ritual.”  It celebrates our history and touches the heart with a sincere retelling of the great American tragedy that is Greenwood, ensuring that we will never forget.

Black Wall Street | Down Stage Pass
Black Wall Street
by Celeste Bedford Walker

September 18-October 5, 2014
Thursdays and Fridays | 7:30PM
Saturdays | 3PM and 8PM
Sundays | 8PM


Online Eventbrite
Call 718-588-8200

Black Tie Gala

Saturday, September 27, 2014 | 6PM
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Andrew Freedman Home
1125 Grand Concourse
Bronx, NY 10452

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About the author

Lynnette Braxton, (Ms. Lynn), is a Louisiana native and professional actress, writer and storyteller. She has performed multicultural and inspirational stories in diverse venues ranging from local basement churches to international stages. She is the author of Thanks for the Memories, a play celebrating the 200th Year Anniversary of Abyssinian Baptist Church, New York. Ms. Lynn first worked with veteran director and actor Robert Duvall and John Beasley in the film The Apostle, portraying the character Mother Blackwell. Since then, she has appeared in many film, television, and theatre productions. Theatre fans will recognize her from NYC productions of Tambourines To Glory, Mrs. Dally Has A Lover, The Wiz, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, and The African Drum. Her professional affiliations include: Gumbeaux Magazine (Featured Fiction Writer), National Storytelling Network, Network of Biblical Storytellers, New York-Abyssinian Baptist Church Creative Arts Ministry, National Association of Black Storytellers, African Folk Heritage Circle, and Writers' Guild of Acadiana of LA. Ms. Lynn holds an M.S.Ed. in Educational Theatre and B.A. in Theatre.

3 comments on “Black Wall Street | Never Forget”

  1. Sage Edwards Reply

    Mike, I’m impressed with the work you’re doing with Celeste’s plays. Continued success

  2. Bundy Laney Reply

    This is truly a great day for us and it shall ignored.
    This is a big event that must be in full attendance.
    This is a ground shaking earthquake that has come into our path.

    This is our history!

    Please come to North Carolina.

  3. Vivian needum Reply

    I am always excited to see and read more about my black history love is what I feel hope is what I have faith is what activate through works and action . I still believe one man can change the world.


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