Recently President Biden announced a three-step approach to alleviating the disproportionate punishments that black and brown people have received for conviction based on marijuana. He is pardoning prior federal offenses for simple possession of marijuana, urging Governors to do the same at the state level, and asking the Secretary of Health and Human services to review the scheduling of marijuana. Does that mean a lot of people will be freed from prison and change is going to happen overnight? Absolutely not. Like I always say, this will be an uphill battle and to make sure rights are enforced there has to be action taken. Rights are not given, but rather, they are enforced by power. Our power comes from working together towards a common goal.
When I think about the power of working together, I’m reminded of my recent trip to Oklahoma to visit the Greenwood District. It's an area more commonly known as Black Wall Street, but I call it by its actual name because, even though it may seem like it was one of a few, there were countless black communities where the people relied on themselves. Their power was evident. There were banks, grocery stores, bars, lawyers, doctors, bakers, restaurants, barbers, salons, and a plethora of other businesses that a community needs to be successful. The power of these communities was so evident that outsiders attacked and burned down many of these towns. Large amounts of wealth were stolen from the people and redistributed to neighboring areas as though the work put in by newly freed African Americans who had created thriving metropolises never existed. It wasn’t just Greenwood District. Colfax, Opelousas, Bernard Parish, Barbour County, Vicksburg, Clinton, Hamburg, Danville, Carroll County, Thibodaux, and Polk County are just a few of the many times African Americans were attacked in mass after exercising their economic and civil freedom. People often downplay the importance of civil and economic freedom in the black community but if there wasn’t power there then there wouldn’t be a constant effort to stop people from working together.
The trip to Greenwood District inspired me to continue along the path that we have already started. It further instilled in me the importance of ownership. I have always had a sense of urgency when it comes to creating your own space, but this trip showed me even more. I was given the opportunity to host some of the current visionaries of Tulsa and see that they are still carrying the spirit of Greenwood. It is a spirit that I want to continue to take with me and spread to you as we build up our own community. We maintain power when we work together and that had been my focus. I want to support the financial institutions, businesses, and supporters who support us. Just like Greenwood, I want to help build a community that stands on its own. I just want to make sure this new community is protected.