When Mia Walter asked her family, who lived an hour and 45 minutes outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma, about the massacre that decimated the city’s predominantly black business district and killed hundreds, she got a room full of stares. empty.
At the time, Walter was a high schooler working on a class project. He had never heard of the Tulsa Race massacre and his family was too afraid to discuss it in detail.
“It was one of those things that they really couldn’t talk about because they thought someone was going to come looking for them,” Walter said.
For her, the story of the atrocity had evolved into a wrongfully kept secret that kept her older relatives from mourning a heartbreaking case of persecution and denied her peers the stories of Black resilience to inspire their generation. .
Now, at 38, Walter has turned the secret into a comedy. His show, Deep Greenwood: The Hidden Truth of Black Wall Street, is coming to Kansas City on Saturday. Tickets start at $70 each and are available online. The show has previously toured several cities in North Carolina.
The show focuses on the Black Wall Street building, the 35-square Tulsa business district ransacked in a series of racially motivated mob attacks in 1921. Tickets for one night only, the Kansas City Music Hall 7 pm show :00 are available on Ticketmaster.
“A lot of people have told me not to act,” Walter said, recalling his early research for the production.
The show is based on interviews with survivors of the massacre, conversations with historians, court transcripts and books, which Walter began collecting in 2012. The main characters, JB Stratford and OW Gurley, were the true founders of the Tulsa business community. They bought block after block of land and sold exclusively to black business owners in the early 1900s. The area has grown to house over 70 black businesses, including grocery stores, doctors’ offices, and hotels.
“A lot of the dialogue is basically quoted from documentation from when they were trying to rebuild their city,” Walter said.
“I wanted to make sure I stayed true to who these people were to give them due respect.”
The show follows the founding members of Tulsa’s Greenwood district as tensions with the White Tulsans mounted, culminating in a mob looting and burning the area to the ground over a two-day period. No whites have been charged with murder or riot-related crimes. In some cases, reports of the massacre have been removed from newspapers, according to the Tulsa World newspaper.
Walter hid his research for three years, in part due to requests from his family.
“They feared for my life,” she said. “I didn’t understand the gravity of why they were so scared.”
Walter explained that the destruction of “Black Wall Street” has left many living in fear and vulnerable to intimidation. When the show premiered in 2018, Walter knew he was going to have a target on his back. He financed the production himself. But after four shows in 2020, the pandemic brought the show to a halt.
For two years Walter’s work was put to pasture. Then, with the help of a promoter and an Oklahoma City pastor, the production resumed touring theaters in 2022.
Walter felt compelled to share the story with an audience that may have never heard of Black Wall Street, or just become aware of the trauma that has plagued Black Tulsans. While understanding the tragedy is important, Walter said, so are the triumphs of Black Wall Street.
A virtual New York Times rendering of the area before the attack shows a thriving commercial community with more than 10,000 residents, theaters, newspapers and restaurants.
Had she been taught more about the area in college, Walter said, it would have inspired her early on to build something of her own. She hopes viewers feel the same inspired after they leave the show.
The show stars famed gospel singers Bryon Cage and Shirly Murdock, who are guaranteed to bring tears of joy and hope to your eyes, according to show promoter Michell Sudduth.
“It’s about an awareness of African American history, as we know it,” she said. “If we don’t know what happened in the past, we are bound to repeat it in the future.”