Tulsa by Hilda Boulware

Tulsa, specifically the black district of Greenwood, one of the most affluent African-American communities in the United States, was also known as “Black Wall Street.” Ottawa W. Gurley was a wealthy African-American landowner from Arkansas. He traveled across the United States to participate in the Oklahoma Land Run of 1889. In 1906 Mr. Gurley purchased 40 acres of land in Tulsa which was “only to be sold to colored.“ With a population of about 10,000 at the time, most businesses were in the small geographical area of Greenwood, Archer, and Pine. There were at least 15 black churches, dozens of Black-owned businesses, movie theaters, skating rinks, hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, dry cleaners, entertainment halls, construction companies, and recreation centers. At least two Black families owned their own airplanes. It was truly a safe and sustaining black community.

On May 31, 1921, Tulsa‘s Black community was the target of a violent attack on by white residents of Tulsa. The attack included deputized citizens, and planes dispatched by law-enforcement to drop bombs on this community. Black Wall Street was destroyed, rendering many of its residents homeless and without their businesses. For many years, all historical reporting, and even talk about the horrific tragedy, was forbidden or hushed. Black people were encouraged to be silent and not retaliate for fear of another government backlash.

My mother’s stepbrothers, James and Abe Yates, lost residences in that massacre —a financial loss that was never recovered.

Continue reading “Tulsa by Hilda Boulware”

By and By

A poem by Michael Nelder

Michael Nelder read this poem at the All Saints Church in Pasadena, CA on Sunday, May 23, 2021, as part of a Poetry Slam honoring the one year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd.

In the church I grew up in
when we’d hear of an injustice so evil you couldn’t explain it away …
the kind that would make your eyes burn and your lungs cave in
and your inner voice begs your mind to turn off the news
because seeing one more black body, chalk outlined
on the pavement, might shatter your pop culture fantasy of life,
the same one that won’t allow you to look a homeless person in the eye,
or admit mass incarceration is slavery in disguise, or see that in this country
you only get as much justice as you can pay for…

The old, black church mothers would say to us,
“baby, you’ll understand it by and by”
my Grandad says, “son there’s some lessons
you only learn through gray hair”
The book of Ecclesiastes says,
“with much wisdom comes much sorrow…

This week was the first time I wished for ignorance,
for the bliss of a care-free, mediocre white man,
working at Starbucks…wearing t-shirt and jeans
do I have to be black hoodie all the time,
center of conversation on race among performers,
commentary for Daunte Wright, George Floyd, Mikayla Bryant
I am still sick, vomiting after taking the red pill of American History

I told my therapist to begin asking me how I feel every time
a black person dies because there is a graveyard inside my throat from all the
news I bury and never talk about

Another poet told me being black means
you are already dressed for the funeral because all you get
is funeral and repast, funeral and repast, not another funeral…

Lately, I been wanting to ask God, “if we’re all supposedly made in
your image, then why do people hate it so much they want to kill it?”

Michael Nelder (@michaelnelder) is the son of a preacher, author, and spoken-word artist.  At the United Way of Greater Los Angeles he served as Impact Speaker using the power of storytelling to bring awareness, inspire action, and raise capital to combat poverty. A love for poetry and prose inspired his TEDx talk on the power of poetry in facilitating spaces for self-discovery and identity development.  He’s been invited to speak, perform, and teach at universities, businesses, churches, and prisons. He is currently the Director of Hope for LA, a local outreach vehicle that focuses on impacting homelessness, loving foster youth, and lifting up families in need. He resides in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles, where he enjoys raising his new pup, Luna. 

A Musical Legacy – By Charlotte Bocage

Charles Leopold Bocage, 1951

My father Charles Joseph Bocage Sr. died when I was almost five years old. We moved from New Orleans to Los Angeles within six months of his death. My mother told me many stories about my father’s family. As I got older, I tried to find out if the stories were true. My genealogical search revealed a lot about my family.

Continue reading “A Musical Legacy – By Charlotte Bocage”

You Owe Me What was Always Mine

“You owe me what was always mine” is the title of Briayna Cuffie’s latest blog post on reparations4slavery.com. She is speaking to enslavers whose family records, letters, journals, photos, plantation accounts, etc. contain valuable information about the men, women, and children they enslaved.

Continue reading “You Owe Me What was Always Mine”

Healing Historic Harms Through Research — Sharon Leslie Morgan

Bettie WARFE/GAVIN

Sharon Leslie Morgan moved to Noxubee County, Mississippi to research her ancestors’ history. Morgan’s great-great-grandmother, Betty Warfe Gavin, was enslaved there, and gave birth to 17 children. The father of all of them was Robert Louis Gavin, a white man and the nephew of her enslaver.

“My ancestors came from here and fled,” says Morgan. “For me to come back and reclaim memories, experiences, relationships, I think that is going to help with healing the historical harm of slavery.”

Continue reading “Healing Historic Harms Through Research — Sharon Leslie Morgan”

BitterSweet ReLaunch!

Dear BitterSweet Readers and Writers:

We are pleased to announce the re-launch of BitterSweet: Linked Through Slavery, a blog hosted by the Linked Descendants Working Group and Coming to the Table (CTTT.) Linked descendants have a joint history in slavery–a pairing of a descendant of an enslaved person with a descendant of his or her enslaver, who are researching their shared history and hoping to find people they are linked to through slavery. Some linked descendants have found each other and are in communication, some are still searching.

Continue reading “BitterSweet ReLaunch!”

Cast In Bronze

by Trina Michelle Robinson

I’ve always been fascinated by migration stories. Hearing the details about why a person left the place of their birth to settle somewhere new always satisfied my love of storytelling and origin stories. Perhaps I was pulled into these tales because I was unknowingly trying to fill a void in my own life. Growing up I did not have many stories of my own that had passed down for generations in my family. But once I was able to unlock that door, and discovered the migration stories of my own lineage, I was introduced to a world I had never imagined. The triumphs and brutality, all living together, laid before me. My journey exploring my ancestry has taken me to the archives of libraries and old courthouses throughout the country and as far as the food markets, private beaches and slave prisons in West Africa.

Continue reading “Cast In Bronze”