This week marks 100 years since the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, one of the ugliest and most deadly acts of racial violence in America's history, something most history books have long ignored until recently, even in the state of Oklahoma, where legislators responded to last year's Black Lives Matter protests by creating a law specifically to grant civil and criminal immunity to drivers who injure or kill protesters.
Coinciding with the centennial of the events of May 31-June 1, 1921, when a white mob descended on Tulsa's Greenwood neighborhood, killing hundreds and destroying as many as 1,500 homes and businesses in the thriving Black Wall Street district, a group of more than 60 hip-hop artists, poets, producers and singers have created a project called Fire in Little Africa. And they've shared their self-titled album this week, a timely release in the middle of divisive times not only in Oklahoma but nationwide.
At a moment when Oklahoma's two Republican senators have just helped block a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Fire in Little Africa is clearly reflective of a torturous history, arriving in the middle of tenuous times, yet somehow pointing to a more triumphant future.
Released by Motown Records/Black Forum in partnership with Tulsa’s Bob Dylan Center and Woody Guthrie Center, Fire in Little Africa tells a powerful story with 21 songs of brutal honesty and a sense of sober hopefulness, capturing the horror of the massacre while carrying on the legacy of the Black Wall Street community, and finding purpose and promise.
“I am honored to be a part of the Fire in Little Africa album featuring the musical contributions of young talented local artists from my hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma," says singer Charlie Wilson, who appears on the new record. "This tragedy has been suppressed for generations. Growing up in Tulsa we named our band, The GAP Band, after Greenwood, Archer and Pine Streets, the wealthiest and most successful African-American community in the United States in the early 20th century."
He continues: "I am proud to see a new generation of talented Tulsans continue to tell the story of our ancestors. They are opening the door for many generations to come by shedding light not only on the race massacre but the excellence of the Black Wall Street and Greenwood community.”
Fire in Little Africa was recorded in Greenwood over a five-day period in March of last year. And further nodding to the history, a series of studios were set up throughout the neighborhood, including at the former home of KKK leader Tate Brady, who was one of the leaders of the 1921 massacre. That house is now owned by former NFL player Felix Jones, who is a Tulsa native.
Hear Fire in Little Africa below, followed by the full list of participants.
The album itself features: Dr. View (Producer); Steph Simon (Rapper); Dialtone (Rapper); St. Domonick (Rapper); Sneak the Poet (Documentarian, Poet); Ayilla (Singer) Jerica Wortham (Poet); Hakeem Eli’Juwon (Rapper); Verse (Rapper); Thomas Who? (Rapper); Parris Chariz (Rapper); M.C. (Rapper); Surron the 7th (Rapper); Ausha LaCole (Singer); Ray June (Rapper); Tony Foster Jr. (Singer); Written Quincey (Poet); Sterling Matthews (Poet); Chris The God MC Cain (Rapper); Keeng Cut (Rapper); Jarry Manna (Rapper); Doc Free (Host); Jacobi Ryan (Rapper); Young DV (Rapper); K.O. (Rapper); Creo (Singer); iamDES (Rapper); Yung Qwan (Rapper); Shyheim (Rapper); Earl Hazard (Rapper); Lawrence Leon (Rapper); Omaley B (Singer); Tizzi (Rapper); Krisheena Suarez (Singer); Tea Rush (Singer); Medisin (Producer); Jacc Spade (Producer); 2peece (Producer); Papa (Producer); ‘Jimmi’ Joe Bruner (Producer); WoRm (Producer); Xanvas (Producer); Malitmotives (Producer); Sentro (Producer); NOLO (Producer); Am’re Ford (Musician); The Vampire Youth (Rapper); Damion Shade (Rapper); Keezy Kuts (Rapper); Bambi (Rapper); Playya 1000 (Rapper); Lester Shaw (Singer); The GRAE (Rapper); Jay Mizz (Rapper); Foolie Foolie (Rapper); Savvy Kray (Rapper); Jabee (Rapper); Deezy (Rapper); SoufWessDes (Rapper); Seriously K5ive (Producer); Original Flow (Rapper); Ali Shaw (Host); Beetyman (Rapper); Sid Carter (Rapper); Deeksta (Producer); 4wop (Rapper); Bezel 365 (Rapper)