In 1921, a white mob destroyed the Black Wall Street business corridor in the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Okla. Homes, schools, churches, stores and a library were burned to the ground. An estimated 300 people were killed—the exact number is unknown—with many more injured. The name of Black Wall Street Reno, a nonprofit founded by Donald Griffin and RoMar Tolliver, honors the flourishing Black district in Tulsa that was destroyed more than a century ago. Learn more by calling 775-622-3612, or visiting blackwallstreetreno.org. We recently spoke to Donald Griffin about the group.
Tell me more about the origin of the name Black Wall Street.
Black Wall Street originated in the early 1900s in Tulsa, Okla. It was a predominantly Black community, with their own hospitals and grocery stores. It was burned down by a racist mob and bombed by the U.S. Army in 1921. Afterward, the United States paid out a nice amount of money to those families, but some are still waiting to be paid off. Once again, they had to start from scratch.
How did Black Wall Street Reno come to be?
In August 2020, RoMar Toliver (co-founder and president) and I started Black Wall Street. We came together and said, “Let’s form Black Wall Street in Reno, where we can build up our own community and do for ourselves.”
What has Black Wall Street accomplished?
We’ve provided more than 5,000 afterschool sack lunches for Pine Middle School, Vaughn Middle School and Traner Middle School. We took more than 200 students last summer ziplining at Project Discovery. We’re developing a mentorship program right now. We’re going to the schools, reaching out and partnering with the school communities.
I understand you’re doing something concerning the drug problem here, especially with fentanyl being such a danger to the community.
Yes, we have started putting out (public boxes containing) Narcan (which can save the life of someone overdosing on opioids). We have five locations around the Reno area, including at Diamond’s Casino on Sixth Street, Hampton House Garden on Elko Street, Life Change Center on Second Street, at Life Change on Fourth Street, and near Wilkinson Park.
What events do you have coming up?
We have an event, the Black History Month Wellness Fair, at the Boys and Girls Club (2680 E. Ninth St., Reno) on Saturday, Feb. 11, from 2 to 6 p.m. It’ll be with ACCEPT (a community-based organization providing HIV/AIDS prevention education, intervention and support services targeting African Americans in Washoe County) and the BCC (Black Community Collective). We’re trying to gather the Black population to come together.
What do you see for Black Wall Street’s future here in Reno?
We’d like to have our own shopping center, our own grocery store, our own barbershop and our own drop-in center for our youth.
Is there anything that the community should be aware of?
Yes, we want the community to be aware that we’re full force and addressing the opiate crisis. We’re reaching out by using old newspaper stands as Narcan boxes, and we’re keeping those filled.
What can the community do to help Black Wall Street Reno?
We’re always open to donations to help keep the lights on. We do go out to the unsheltered population, so things like blankets, gloves and hats help, and would be appreciated.