During the early 20th century, African Americans in Tulsa, Oklahoma flourished in a self-contained and self-reliant hub, owning grocery stores, banks, restaurants, libraries and movie theaters. This community, affectionately known as Black Wall Street, made history as one of the most prosperous and affluent African-American communities in the United States. Built ‘For Black People, By Black People’, this historic district attracted the attention of local white residents who resented the upward mobility and lifestyle of a people they deemed to be an inferior race. The racial tension reached its height after a white woman made allegations against a black man, resulting in mobs of angry white residents descending on the historic Greenwood district, looting homes, burning down businesses and taking the lives of blacks on the spot. A once thriving, successful community was completely destroyed in 2 days. While the community has not reached the same level of success it once had, the impact of its history is still felt generations later.
Paying homage to and highlighting the success of Black Wall Street, De’Von Truvel, a West Valley Boys & Girls Club alum, is ensuring that youth across the nation not only know the history and legacy of Black Wall Street but have an opportunity to strive for the same Black excellence. Through Play Black Wall Street, De’Von is educating youth on their history, teaching financial literacy and creating a space free of stereotypes for youth to learn and play.
We had a chance to chat with De’Von and gain a bit more insight into this exciting venture.
Tell us a little about Play Black Wall Street game and why it was created?
- Play Black Wall Street is a board game that takes the history of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street and puts it into a family fun game! The idea originated from my time spent as a Summer Camp volunteer in 2017. There I realized the history of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street was not well known among youth. This was a problem for me. Having a passion for educating and motivating youth, especially those of color, I believed this was a huge gap in education that needed to be filled.
Why is it important for youth to know the history of Black Wall Street?
- I’m a firm believer that ‘if you can see it and believe it, you can achieve it’. It was important for me to highlight the positive points in our history; to show our youth that our ancestors built an entire city, circulated the black dollar within their community while being only one generation removed from slavery. If you can see that your people can have power, success and love, it instills the confidence that you have the potential to do that as well.
There are a number of ways to share history lessons with youth, these include documentaries, books, curriculum etc. Why create a game?
Play Black Wall Street
- As a self-proclaimed nerd, I grew up playing games. Games have always been a part of my family time, my life and my culture. When we think about our community and getting back to traditions, I thought teaching the history but also giving the actions of coming together, passing money around to the people that you love and saying these words in the house gave more power to the vision of what we’re trying to build.
game is set up very similar to monopoly, with one key difference, there is no jail. Why was it important to remove this element?
- When we came up with the idea for the game, we were pretty certain that something similar already existed. Unfortunately, a lot of the games we found were all built on stereotypes such as drugs or the prison industrial complex. We knew that if these games are out there representing us and our culture negatively, then we needed to put out a game that celebrated black excellence. We wanted the game to reflect what we want for our youth in the future. We were intentional about creating ‘safe spaces’ in the game, such as parks and city hall, where if you land, you pay no money and you’re just kind of chilling. We didn’t want the symbolism of jail and hopefully by putting those free spaces around the board we are showing youth that they have other options available to them.
What is one lesson you would like to see young people walk away with after playing this game?
- One of the major differences of this game versus monopoly is the use of real business structures throughout the game. Players can invest in their businesses to take it from a Sole Proprietor to a Limited Liability Company and all the way up to a Corporation if they own the entire market. We want to teach our kids early that they can own businesses and they can turn those businesses into LLCs and Corporations. Instead of just being a consumer, they can build generational wealth, much like that of the residents of Black Wall Street.
How did your experience at the Club shape and influence the work you’re doing now?
Learn more about Play Black Wall Street.
Learn more about Black Wall Street – Tulsa, Oklahoma.
- When I joined West Valley Boys & Girls Club, they were a growing Club and establishing their culture. The youth development professionals were very open to new ideas and recommendations on how to make this the best club experience for us. There were a number of new spaces that needed developing and the staff came to us for our input and suggestions. We recommended a basketball league, dance battle league and a number of other programs. The adults were extremely receptive to our ideas and adopted them all. Having this type of support and receptiveness as a kid gave me the confidence that the ideas that are in my head can become a reality if I work at them. As a creative by profession, it can be scary to have all of these ideas in your head and not know how they can manifest. Getting that confidence early and learning how to really manifest and translate what is in your head to a tangible product is very important for our youth and I have my time spent at the Club to thank for that.