C.J. Neal, a photojournalist at the Oklahoma Eagle, heard stories of Black Wall Street like we all did: stories of its prosperity, creativity and the role it played in the creation of our city’s signature
Tulsa Sound. He also heard the stories of its violent destruction.
“So I thought, why is there nothing that’s dedicated to that? I mean, why is there nothing we dedicated to the men and women who have come through this historic district and created their sound?” Neal says.
From 7-10 p.m., Aug. 8, the premier Black Wall Street Music Awards will be the historic celebration and recognition of musicians past and present on Black Wall Street that Neal was looking for. Neal planned the awards with the help of the Greenwood Arts and Cultural Society, a nonprofit dedicated to the arts. The awards are being held in the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, without a crowd.
“We decided this year to do a virtual show,” Neal says. “Our main concern is that we do not want people coming to a venue and risking their health in order to honor things past, present and future.”
Neal is in talks with local TV channels to televise the awards, but the show also will be streamed at facebook.com/bwsmusicawards. Viewers will see special pre-recorded performances by Val & Black Wall Street Band, Full Flava Kings, Freakjuice and Majeste Pearson, as well as the recognition of special honorees. A fundraising drive will help future musicians carry on the legacy of Black Wall Street.
“We are also doing fundraisers for musicians that are just coming into their field of music that really want to make that either their career or they just want to express themselves,” Neal says. “We’re going to try to set up some program so that way next year we actually have a music camp where students will be able to come out and learn about lighting, scoring, singing, voice lessons, coaches and just the whole process.”
Nominees were submitted by the public to receive awards like best new artist, album of the year and other typical music award categories. Neal is excited for the opportunity to shine some light on the talent in the region and the history of Black Wall Street.
“The thing about the history of that district is that we talked about the violence of it in the past before,” Neal says. “And of course, we talked about the horrors that happened in ’21.
“But that district still remains with all of its history to be an inspiration for musical artists. One of the worst experiences that we’ve experienced in American history ... It didn’t stop it.”