Motown releasing hip-hop album to mark 100th anniversary of Tulsa race massacre

Fire in Little Africa artists in front of the Skyline Mansion, a now Black-owned venue originally built by a KKK leader who helped orchestrate the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. This photo is inspired by a group photo of original Black Wall Street business owners from before 1921. (photo by Ryan Cass)

Motown Records has recently released a compilation hip-hop album called Fire in Little Africa commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa, Oklahoma, race massacre in 1921.

The 21-track collection gets to the truth of what happened in 1921 from May 31 to June 1 when a White mob descended on the streets of Greenwood (then a prosperous Tulsa neighborhood known as Black Wall Street) and burned down the business district. The massacre destroyed roughly 1,500 homes, killing hundreds and leaving thousands of Black Tulsans homeless.

Fire in Little Africa, an album of original material, written and recorded by a collective of Oklahoma hip-hop artists, was released on May 28 by Motown Records/Black Forum in partnership with Tulsa’s Bob Dylan Center and Woody Guthrie Center.

“Fire in Little Africa is a powerful and timely project that provides a platform and outlet for the incredibly talented and thriving music community of Tulsa, Oklahoma. I am honored and feel privileged to have Motown Records/Black Forum partner with Dr. View, the Bob Dylan Center and Guthrie Center to release this impactful hip-hop album,” Motown Records Chairman/CEO Ethiopia Habtemariam said in a statement to The Associated Press.

The album was recorded in Greenwood over a five-day period in March 2020. Studios were set up at the Greenwood Cultural Center and other locations, including the former home of 1921 massacre mastermind and Ku Klux Klan leader Tate Brady. The house is now owned by former NFL first-round draft pick and Tulsa native Felix Jones.

Fire in Little Africa has evolved into a communal hip-hop movement, and we’re excited that we get to share the flavor, history and legacy of Black Wall Street with the world, in collaboration with the amazing leadership of the Motown [and the] Black Forum family,” Stevie ‘Dr. View’ Johnson, Ph.D., the manager of education and diversity outreach at the Woody Guthrie Center and Bob Dylan Center, told The AP.

“We’re grateful for Ethiopia’s foresight in providing us an opportunity to share our important stories with the world.”

Johnson also serves as an executive producer on the project.

“There are Black Wall Streets across the Diaspora, and we unequivocally know that Fire in Little Africa will inspire many people. In the words of Steph Simon, ‘everything is us.’ ”

Located in the Tulsa Arts District, the Woody Guthrie Center opened in 2013. The Bob Dylan Center is expected to open on the same block within the next year. Both are projects of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the primary funder for Fire in Little Africa. The album is chronicled in a documentary film, which will be released later this year as well.

(This story first in Rolling Out.)

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