The couple keeping Black Wall Street alive

Inspired by the legacy of 'Black Wall Street', Obum Ukabam and his wife Faith Walker-Ukabam moved from California to Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2019. At its centennial, Obum wants to help tell the story of the 1921 Tulsa Massacre and empower black youth by ensuring the spirit of the city's entrepreneurs lives on. Produced by Xinyan Yu

Video Transcript

[SINGING]

- No more, no more.

OBUM UKABAM: With Theater North, our oldest Black theater here in Tulsa, we just performed a play called "Greenwood, An American Dream Destroyed." We show what life was like thriving, great community.

Take a deep breath, hold.

- All right, children.

OBUM UKABAM: But then also how we just quickly, in a snap of a finger, how things turn.

- If you say that-- if you say that as you work that I put my hands on all over--

- Oh!

- Is that true? None of it's true. None of it.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

NARRATOR: In 1921, riled by false claims of attacks on white women, an angry white mob waged war on the Black residents of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma, dropping bombs from the sky and burning homes and businesses to the ground. The attack, known as the Tulsa Massacre killed and injured hundreds. It also destroyed the Black Wall Street, the wealthiest Black community in the US at the time.

OBUM UKABAM: What attracted me to come to Tulsa is the history of Black Wall Street, not just the massacre, but the thriving community that thrived again after the massacre.

NARRATOR: In 2019, Obum and his wife, Faith, moved from California to Oklahoma, inspired by the legacy of the Greenwood District.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

OBUM UKABAM: They had grocery stores, doctors and ambulance services, funeral homes, lawyers, they had everything self-sustaining in 36 blocks. Those survivors are still here and have that same resilience, and they're here to keep fighting for their ancestors and for those stories to be told.

Knowing that my wife is an entrepreneur now, a Black entrepreneur, a woman entrepreneur, and they're the ones who kind of pushed her into doing it. They supported her, because they had that in their DNA.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

I am not a descendant of Black Wall Street, but what I can do is help tell the story.

They came to Greenwood, and they swarmed in like locusts to feed and destroy. The dead were tossed unceremoniously into unmarked mass graves.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

NARRATOR: Now a youth advocate, Obum's mission goes beyond keeping the legacy of Black Wall Street alive. He's dedicated to empowering young people in Tulsa's Black community.

- Hey, look at this.

OBUM UKABAM: So we're going to hear a lot about the centennial, but I want to make sure that after the centennial, what are we doing for the people of Tulsa? What are we doing to make sure we're reconciling and making sure that the youth know that they can have a thriving community again?

- Who are we?

- Greenwood.

- Who are we?

- Greenwood.

- Who are we?

- Greenwood.

NARRATOR: The history of the Tulsa Massacre was once largely glossed over.

- Who are we?

- Greenwood.

NARRATOR: But the descendants of the victims and the residents of Tulsa would never forget.

- One, two, three--

- Greenwood forever.