The Operation HOPE community mourns the loss of a Tulsa-area hero and fellow soldier in the fight for financial equity and economic opportunity, Ms. Sherry Yvonne Smith. Sherry Smith was the chamber president and CEO of the Tulsa-based Black Wall Street Chamber of Commerce. The non-profit’s mission is dedicated to promoting the sound economic well-being of African American-owned businesses. We honor her spirit and memory by continuing the fight to ensure that those who have been historically excluded from realizing the American Dream in its fullness gain access and opportunity to fully participate in our nation’s economic system.
If you don’t know the significance of the original Black Wall Street, it has long been a symbol of economic hope and success, due to the entrepreneurial spirit demonstrated by Greenwood residents who thrived together during a time when it wasn’t common, in the face of racism and segregation in the early 1900s.
An estimated $200 million of Black-owned property and wealth was destroyed during the Tulsa Race Massacre. In the 35-square-block Greenwood District, Black business owners had five hotels, 31 restaurants, eight doctor’s offices, two movie theaters, 24 grocery stores, and more. The white supremacist burning and attack on May 31, 1921 decimated that.
While the Black Wall Street of the past cannot be recreated, it’s important to unpack its lasting impact on the road to closing the racial wealth gap. It’s also important for the world to recognize Sherry’s work help to shift the status quo and promote Black entrepreneurship. Operation HOPE is proud to have stood with her in purpose and in the many areas that our missions overlap.
May she rest in power.