Darrell Kelley, a singer/songwriter and R&B artist, remembers the victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 with his new single “Black Wall Street.” Kelley shares the story of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the horror that befell it’s citizens. A white mob burned the Greenwood District to the ground and murdered many of the Black Americans who lived there. It is a piece of history that has been buried in the background for far too long and is now being thoroughly researched and discussed. Darrell Kelley uses his power of song to retell history, much like a bard creating a ballad.
Kelley has been working hard the past year, creating multiple tracks in the vein of justice and protest. He wrote and recorded tracks about the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the sorrow and rightful rage the Black community has been feeling. “Black Wall Street” points out another glaring example of how harmful racism truly is, and how it’s been ruining Black lives for an extremely long time. Kelley creates an image of this safe haven for Black Americans, singing “They didn’t need or want/never asked the white man for a damn thing.” He talks about how prosperous they were and the community they built. But then the mood shifts, as you’re reminded that this perfect place didn’t last. Just one white woman lying about a Black man accosting her was enough for a white mob to storm through the Greenwood District, destroying everything in their path.
The story is the heart of the song, and you can hear the respect and intent in Kelley’s voice as he sings. The track showcases his urge to educate. While more people than ever are now aware of Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Race Massacre, there are still many out there who don’t know. Kelley is able to make music that is highly personal, but also informs his audience about important events. On his website, he says that the message behind his music “inspires others, touches hearts, feeds the soul, and influences lives for the better.” He doesn’t shy away from the ugly truth, but he doesn’t quite shove your face in it either. He simply lays out the facts and allows you to absorb and understand. He is trying to guide and enlighten and focuses his feelings through his music.
“Black Wall Street” probably isn’t a song you’ll throw on to get ready for a night out, but it is an important song that deserves to be listened to. Darrell Kelley eloquently lays out the events of that dark day and has created a piece of art that preserves the memories of these Black citizens. The song should be listened to with all the reverence and solemnity one can muster. Take the time to reflect on the enormity of what actually happened, on the lives that were lost. That is what this song is asking you to do. To listen, to pause, to really think about our history with racism and hatred. This track has a lot of gravity and guts.
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