More than 1,700 miles away from Silicon Valley, Tyrance Billingsley II is leading the charge to create a new, global technology hub in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. His goal: To build a thriving economy of Black-owned businesses in an industry where Black innovators have been historically underrepresented and in a city with a legacy of Black entrepreneurialism.
In the early 20th century, the Greenwood neighborhood in the northern part of the city was home to a bustling commercial center of Black-owned businesses, known as Black Wall Street. But in 1921, a mob of White residents attacked in what became known as the Tulsa Race Massacre, killing hundreds of residents, destroying businesses, and leaving Black business owners and the Black Tulsa community with nothing but the knowledge that they weren’t welcome.
“What could Black Wall Street have been, had it been supported and not destroyed?“ Billingsley asks. “When I thought about the level of tenacity that it took for these entrepreneurs to build these incredible businesses during Jim Crow, it really reminded me a lot of the tech industry.”