Why NBA Finals MVP Jaylen Brown is trying to resurrect Black Wall Street

BY Preta Peace Namasaba June 20, 2024 2:45 PM EDT
Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics. Photo Credit: Wilfredo Lee.

Following the Boston Celtics 4-1 win over the Dallas Mavericks in the 2024 NBA Finals, Jaylen Brown was named 2024 Finals MVP. The 27-year-old guard averaged 20.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, and  5.0 assists with quality defense in the finals. He received the prestigious Bill Russell Trophy, named after the 11-time NBA champion and the league’s first-ever Black head coach, for contributing to the Celtics historic 18th NBA Champion. However, Brown’s most awe-inspiring moments have been off the court.

Coming off an impressive season as a second-team All-NBA nominee and winner of the Larry Bird Trophy awarded to the Eastern Conference Finals MVP in 2023, Brown qualified for a supermax extension. He secured a five-year, $304 million extension with the Boston Celtics, the biggest contract in NBA history last year. When Brown saw his brand new contract, his first thought was how to use the money to help better communities and people. He decided to launch a project to bring Black Wall Street to Boston and tackle the wealth disparity in the city.

“I want to launch a project to bring Black Wall Street here in Boston. I want to attack the wealth disparity here. I think there’s analytics that supports that stimulating the wealth gap could actually be something that could be better meant for the entire economy,” Brown said about his project.

The ambitious plan includes investing in the community, building infrastructure, and changing lives in real-time. Brown promised to leverage his platform and influence to partner with people in power to create more opportunities for Black Bostonians. These initiatives are geared towards creating new jobs and businesses, democratizing resources, and stimulating the economy to bridge the wealth gap. His vision for Boston’s Black Wall Street is a fully integrated self-sufficient hub that serves as a model for Black economic empowerment in not only the US but also across the world.

Black Wall Street refers to a neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma where African Americans had created a self-sufficient prosperous business district in the early 20th century. The neighborhood had a grocery store, a barbershop, doctors, real estate agents, its local newspaper, and schools. 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. Today, the name Black Wall Street is applied more generally to districts of Black American high economic activity.

Brown does not take his power and influence as an NBA star lightly. Aware that his every word and move is highly analyzed, critiqued, and broadcast across the country, he uses his platform to speak on behalf of those who cannot. Brown has revealed that representing the voiceless and causes that he is passionate about gives his life a higher purpose. His activism is inspired by past Black athletes who have used their platforms to stand up for the less powerful and make a difference. He intends to follow in their footsteps.

“I think through my platform, through influential partners, through selected leaders, government officials, a lot who are in this room. That we can come together and create new jobs, new resources, new businesses, new ideas that could highlight minorities but also stimulate the economy and the wealth gap at the same time,” Brown said about leveraging his platform for change.

It is not his first time expressing the need to empower the Black community. Brown participated in Commit to C.A.R.E. (Care About Racial Equity), an initiative sponsored by Dove Men+Care to drive change against systematic racism. He has served as the vice president of the National Basketball Players Association since 2019.