Mechelle Brown, Greenwood Cultural Center program coordinator, and Libby Adjei, GCC board member, had been dreaming of ways to bring the history of Black Wall Street to life for Tulsa students. They’d created lesson plans and were toying with the idea of creating a board game.
Then, in mid-2020, Microsoft called. The tech giant reached out to GCC for help creating a virtual world based on Black Wall Street for its Minecraft: Education Edition. The game-based learning platform promotes creativity, collaboration and problem-solving in an immersive digital environment.
“I hung up the phone with Michelle and we started screaming,” Adjei says. “I was just blown away because we thought we might reach maybe 100 people (with their plans). Then Microsoft told us, ‘With this you can reach millions of students across the world.’”
From there, Brown, Adjei and GCC board members Sherri Tapp, La Verne Wimberly and Anne Ghostbear consulted with the Microsoft team to ensure the project’s historical accuracy.
“They would send mock-ups for us to review and revise,” Brown says, “and we shared many of our photographs of the Black-owned businesses in the Greenwood District with them.”
The lesson rolled out in December for educators who subscribe to Minecraft: Education Edition, allowing sixth- through ninth-graders to virtually build a pre-1921 Black Wall Street. Written by the GCC team, lesson plans teach students about community building, social justice concepts and the Tulsa Race Massacre.
“We are just so excited to have that opportunity to take a small part in helping not just our country, but kids all over the world, to learn about social justice and reconciliation, so that history doesn’t repeat itself,” Adjei says.