100 years later Race riots in Tulsa Leaving hundreds of black bodies scattered and burning the booming business district of Black Wall Street to the ground, a new chapter is being written by those most connected to its legacy. Black Tech Streetfounded by Tyrance Billingsley II, is part of a new group A global technology hub for black entrepreneurs in Tulsa, carrying a heavy torch and fireplace.
Billingsley asks, “What would Black Wall Street have been, had it been propped up and not destroyed?” 3BL CSRWire reporters. “When I thought about the level of perseverance it took for these entrepreneurs to build these amazing businesses during the Jim Crow era, it reminded me a lot of the tech industry.”
As the direct descendant of those who built the original Black Wall Street, Billingsley feels a personal responsibility to get the job done. But he doesn’t walk away from the block on his own. In partnership with innovation firm SecondMuse, Black Tech Street can facilitate investment in black startups, encourage big tech companies to open hubs in the city and hire black workers, as well as provide resources for black entrepreneurs to build their businesses. Other groups in partnership with the organization include Build in Tulsa, an acceleration network made up of ACT Tulsa, Techstars, and the Lightship Foundation.
“This is a really collaborative effort between the city and local organizations like our regional chamber and business,” says Arthur Johnson, senior vice president of economic development at the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce. “I haven’t seen that kind of intent in terms of not only developing black-owned businesses, but also black tech talent.”
Building in Tulsa has one primary goal, and that is to bridge the racial wealth gap in Tulsa and beyond. “We want to build multigenerational wealth, and the truth of the matter is technology is the fastest growing tool for wealth in this country,” says Ashley Sims, the foundation’s managing director.
What we do know is that developments in technology over the past 30 years have been responsible for the majority of wealth creation during that period. What we also know is that black entrepreneurs and innovators have been largely excluded and underrepresented across the industry, leaving us with little opportunity to share in that wealth. according to 2022 Report provided by the Kapoor Center and the NAACP, while 13% of American citizens are black, Only 3% of them are tech players. But along with cities like Atlanta, Charlotte, Cincinnati, and Birmingham, Tulsa is making efforts to change this by attracting big tech companies and investing in black entrepreneurs, all while giving a boost to their economy.
“The history of Tulsa makes us more prepared than other places to have an important conversation about the lack of access for black entrepreneurs and the disparity around venture capital dollars,” Sims says.
Black Tech Street and its collaborators invest not only in the city’s entrepreneurs, but also its investments the students And teachers too. “Technology has become a foundation for many different industries, and this is only going to accelerate,” Johnson says. “The skill set changes so that you don’t necessarily need a four-year degree in computer science, but you do need a certain level of technical knowledge, and that education has to start early.”
This year, a partnership was launched between HP and the Digital Promise organization, the HP Teaching Fellows Program, with the goal of helping teachers in North Tulsa use technology in innovative ways.
For Tulsa and the legacy of Black Wall Street, all roads lead to gold, or at least accessible capital for black businessmen.
“We are changing the narrative of what a tech entrepreneur looks like and who can succeed in technology,” Billingsley says. “You should be able to look in the mirror and say, ‘I am what a CTO looks like,’ or ‘I am what the founder of a billion-dollar company would look like. “