Donald Trump tried to strike a match in Tulsa this weekend but it completely backfired thanks in part to the power of TikTok and the fans of K-pop sensations such as BTS and Blackpink. Those pesky “TikTok teens,” as media outlets called them, RSVP’d for hundreds of thousands of rally slots in an effort to inflate the projected turnout. It worked like a charm. The arena was emptier than Trump’s promises.
Originally, Trump scheduled the rally for Juenteeth, the holiday commemorating the end of U.S. slavery. After tremendous outcry, he moved it to the next day. Since the George Floyd protests began, many major cities and companies have declared Juneteenth an official holiday. If Joe Biden wins the election in November, I believe it will become a national holiday next.
Tulsa is a particularly controversial spot for a Trump rally, especially during an intense period of racial reckoning, because of its place in civil rights history. It so happens that right before the pandemic hit, I was in Tulsa. What an eye-opening weekend it was.
Tulsa was once known as the “magic city” for its ability to make people rich off oil in the early 20th century. But the past 100 years have been marred by horrific injustices. The 1921 massacre of Black Wall Street (known more cryptically as the Oklahoma Race Riot) weighs heavily on the city. The scars of the tragedy may never fully heal.
There’s a hip-hop movement happening in The Town (as it’s referred to in Oklahoma), built on love, community, and the legacy of ancestors who paved the way. During our visit, a handful of reporters and industry movers were immersed in the Tulsan culture. Over that weekend, the stems of Fire In Little Africa were made.
Fire In Little Africa is a groundbreaking album and multiplayer media project coming out of Tulsa in 2021. The project has two central goals:
1. Mark the centennial of the tragedies of 1921.
The Greenwood District where Black Wall Street once stood, although not the same, has since been rebuilt. But Black Wall Street is a mentality. The FILA album is built off its ethos.
2. Highlight the local Tulsa hip-hop scene
The common wisdom for artists not born in one of the established hip-hop meccas is simple: leave your hometown and get to Atlanta, Los Angeles, or New York as fast as you can. So Fire in Little Africa is the story of the artists who stayed in Tulsa to claim what is rightfully theirs. The project will feature rappers, singers, musicians, and visual artists who are not afraid to be themselves and to celebrate their hometown, scars and all. They want to turn the wound of an atrocity into motivation and empowerment.
I had the privilege of meeting a lot of this local talent. The executive producer of the album is Dr. Stevie Johnson, PhD, who loves hip-hop so much that when he got his doctorate last May and handed in his dissertation, he turned it into a mixtape as well! In Stevie’s words, the goal of the album is to use his resources to hold people accountable while uplifting the human race.
I’m very excited to have Dr. Stevie Johnson and an all-star Tulsa hip-hop team on Beats & Bytes Live this week. The show will start at 6pm ET on my LinkedIn page. We’ll get a first-hand account of one of the best redemption stories in American history and you’ll hear all about Fire in Little Africa. RSVP here.
On top of that, Friday we’re partnering with DEW to host a conversation about Tik Tok. Join me, @jacobpace (CEO of @flighthouse), and @hope.schwing to discuss the pre-eminent social media platform on “What’s Hot, What’s Not, and Where Things Are Going Next.” Link to RSVP here.