These two Black women are attempting to revive the original Black Wall Street

BY Preta Peace Namasaba April 3, 2024 3:40 PM EDT
LaToya Gooden and JaCoi Pugh. Photo credit: Black Enterprise

Black Wall Street is the name that has been given to the neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma where African-Americans created a self-sufficient prosperous business district in the early 20th century. The neighborhood businesses included a grocery store, a barbershop, doctors, real estate agents, a newspaper, and schools. Unfortunately, this successful era of Black-owned businesses was short-lived.

In 1921, mobs of white residents burned and destroyed more than 35 square blocks of the neighborhood in what came to be known as the Tulsa race massacre. More than 1,400 homes and businesses were burned, nearly 10,000 people were left homeless, and around 300 people were killed. The event is considered one of the worst incidents of racial violence in American history. Even after an attempt to rebuild, Black Wall Street never regained the strength and prestige it once had.

Two Black women, JaCoi Pugh and LaToya Gooden, the founders of Black Women’s Wall Street, are reviving the original Black Wall Street. Located in the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, they are rebuilding the community of businesses and supporting what Black Wall Street once was on a unique scale. They are helping Black women become business owners through training, financial literacy, and education.

“Black Women’s Wall Street is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, it was started at my kitchen table with myself and Latoya. We were sitting there, going back and forth. We are business owners, what in the world could happen? Is there any organization out there that would help people like us? We’re unapologetic with the target audience that we’re serving,” Pugh said.

The brainstorming sessions of Black Women’s Wall Street began at Pugh’s kitchen table. Pugh and Gooden, both seasoned business owners, found themselves questioning the lack of public resources and organizations specifically catering to Black women entrepreneurs. Pugh’s entrepreneurial journey as a Black woman was marked by a fair share of challenges and setbacks. Despite the support of friends and family, she felt scared and lonely because they could not fully grasp the nuances of her journey. This sense of isolation and the need for a supportive community drove Pugh and Gooden to establish Black Women’s Wall Street.

In 2018, the two women founded Black Women’s Wall Street with a mission to empower Black entrepreneurs in North Texas. They brought together their unique, yet powerful background under a shared vision to create a platform that provides tangible support, motivation, and resources to black women striving to build wealth and achieve their entrepreneurial dreams. Its community offers a safe space for women to share their experiences, seek guidance, and celebrate each other’s successes.

“It’s scary. It’s lonely. You think that you can speak with your family, you think you can speak with friends, but because if you’re speaking to other people that have never ever walked the path that you’re on, it’s hard for them to understand the journey,” Pugh said of the hardships she faced as a black, female entrepreneur.

Through initiatives such as their ongoing business plan competitions, Black Women’s Wall Street is strengthening and training Black women to create sustainable and thriving companies. The organization helps women from idea to inception and provides consultations and networking events to ensure that they have the tools to form their businesses. Its target demographic is Black women of all backgrounds with the ambition to grow their professional careers.

Pugh and Gooden have succeeded in creating a vibrant and supportive network of like-minded women who understand the unique struggles and triumphs of being a Black female entrepreneur. Although the bold name of their organization has raised eyebrows, the two remain resolute in their dedication to their target demographic. For them, Black Women’s Wall Street is more than just a name but a symbol of empowerment and solidarity, challenging stereotypes and breaking down barriers for Black women in business.