Hundreds of armed Black gun owners and Second Amendment advocates are planning to march on “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this weekend to pay homage to the lives lost in the Tulsa Race Massacre and advocate for more Black gun ownership in the U.S.
Nearly a century after the violence that destroyed an affluent neighborhood in Tulsa known as Black Wall Street and left as many as 300 Black Americans dead, a collection of gun rights groups organized the peaceful event for Saturday, the anniversary of the 1921 massacre. After a year of international protests against racism and police brutality, the men and women will continue the fight for racial justice, which includes being able to arm and protect themselves without consequences, the same way white Americans can.
“Our hope is to try to galvanize a community, educate around the position of Second Amendment rights, and hopefully be a vehicle to more or less unify the African American community,” Yafeuh Balogun, the co-founder of the Huey P. Newton Gun Club in Dallas, told VICE News.
“We want to be part of history,” he continued. “We want the generations, the younger kids to understand the timeframe and the importance of recognizing the people that came before them and the sacrifices that they made.”
At least three other organizations are joining the Newton Gun Club, including the Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt Pistol and Rifle Gun Club of Central Texas, the Anubis Arms Gun Club, and the Panther Special Operations Command. All of these organizations were founded in the last seven years years, to inform Black Americans about their legal right to bear arms and defend themselves.
The armed protest in Greenwood, the Tulsa neighborhood where Black Wall Street once stood, is expected to be one of the largest gatherings of Black, pro-gun rights Americans in recent years, according to Balogun, with participants expected from at least 30 states.
“I think solidarity is important,” he said. “Of course every group is not going to agree with every political position more or less. But in terms of this particular march, I think because of the significance of it and what it means overall, these groups were able to collectively work together.”
The organizations all hold gun competitions and host gun ranges to create a safe space for Black gun owners, new and old.
“We would like to think that we are part of the reason why African Americans have been buying weapons probably at a higher rate than any other demographic at this time,” Balogun said.
While it’s unclear how much of an impact Black gun clubs may have influenced the trend, Black gun ownership is booming in the U.S. The National Shooting Sport Association reported in July of 2020 that the number of first-time Black gun owners in the first half of the year was up 58.2 percent, more than white, Latino, and Asian gun buyers.
The gun clubs are also involved in community aid, food drives, fundraising, and political activism. The Newton Gun Club for example, helped advocate to rename a street in Dallas Botham Jean Blvd, in honor of the 25-year-old unarmed Black man who was shot and killed by an off-duty Dallas police officer while eating ice cream in his own home.
While it’s been 100 years since the Tulsa Massacre, Balogun feels that many of the racial disparities that existed then still exist today. He discussed the issues of police violence against Black people, financial compensation for historic injustices, and America’s failure to reconcile with its racist past.
“When we come across law enforcement, sometimes we can end up not making it home,” he said. “In Tulsa, the city still hasn’t officially recognized that massacre. We still have descendants that as recently as last week spoke before Congress requesting reparations.”
The coalition of organizations will also pass out literature and speak about the history of the Tulsa Massacre, as well as “Know Your Rights” information focused on how Black Americans should properly handle encounters with the police.
Though education will be a major focus of the armed protests, Balogun hopes the visual of hundreds of law-abiding Black gun owners will be the biggest, most effective way of getting their message of pro-gun rights and Black solidarity out.
“We chose to come to Tulsa, Oklahoma, on the 100-year anniversary, to expose those contradictions,” he continued. “And realize the absolute responsibility that we have in making sure that what happened in 1921 never happens again.”