Each player in the league received the game, which teaches about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and the once-thriving Greenwood District
The New Orleans Pelicans had an early Christmas present sitting on their locker room chairs on Tuesday morning from the Holidays during the holidays.
Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday and his wife, Lauren, gave every NBA player the second edition of Black Wall Street the Board Game. About 450 games were given as gifts to all 30 NBA teams. Through the Holidays’ JLH Fund, they also gave the makers of the Black Wall Street board game a grant to support their Black-owned business.
“I’m happy to see, first of all, us recognizing the history of Black Wall Street,” Pelicans guard C.J. McCollum said. “It’s very important. Black history is in there. It’s important that we share and know that. I hope the players seek to learn more about that. It’s important that NBA players, especially with [the league being] 80 to 85% African American and minority, understand our history.
“I’m looking forward to playing that game. I’m going to make sure I thank Jrue, as well as his wife, personally. That is a really, really cool gesture and something that is needed and will be appreciated.”
Black Wall Street the Board Game is inspired by the historic Black Wall Street in the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was one of the wealthiest Black neighborhoods in the United States during its roughly 20 years of existence beginning around the turn of the 20th century until it was destroyed in 1921. The goal of the game is to increase the participants’ knowledge of Black history and financial literacy.
Participating players can buy businesses as an entrepreneur or to use the business as a customer. Players also are able to reinvest in businesses purchased to create LLCs and corporations to grow more income.
Jrue Holiday hopes participants will be inspired to educate themselves more about money management.
“I didn’t know anything about finances growing up,” Jrue Holiday said. “For me, it was like, ‘Whatever you got, 10% tithe and then 10% percent you could spend on whatever, and then 80% you save.’ But that was the extent of my allowance. It wasn’t about having a salary and doing whatever.
“Having this opportunity to educate yourself is really big, especially in the Black community. And even young guys, all guys, I feel like even though they have people who can explain stuff to them and do all that, it’s just something about self-education that I feel is really important.”
Play Black Wall Street
The board game was originally released in 2019 and needs two to five players to play. The family-friendly game takes about 30 minutes to two hours to play while using math and strategy. The suggested participant age starts at 8 years old.
Play Black Wall Street co-founder De’Von Truvel said he came up with the idea for Black Wall Street the Board Game after working a teen summer camp in 2017.
“At this camp, everyone needs to come up with a camper name to help separate them from any traumas they might have associated with their own name at home or in their community,” Truvel said. “The name I chose to use as a camp mentor was Black Wall Street based on what I learned about the community while in college. None of the campers knew what Black Wall Street was or what it stood for. After leaving the camp, I wanted to find a way to return the following year to teach the legacy of Black Wall Street to these middle school to high school youth.
“I talked to my wife, Sinclair, about the idea of creating some type of game that uses the history of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street, but she thought it was such a good idea that it had to already be in existence. Unfortunately, when searching for Black Wall Street games or Black Monopoly games online, the only versions of the game that came up were versions built on stereotypes and negative aspects of the community. We knew then that we needed our own game built on true Black history and Black excellence to share with families across the nation.”
The makers of Black Wall Street the Board Game were awarded a grant from the Holidays’ JLH Social Impact Fund to further develop their business. Play Black Wall Street co-founder Sinclair Walker said being a part of the JLH Social Impact Fund family has been “one of the greatest gifts of 2022” and they are “forever grateful.”
“They truly have poured into us and our business, not only financially, but with a lot of time and energy,” Walker said. “We received a grant from the JLH Fund to support the growth of our business, [and] participation in an incubatorlike program to prepare for our crowdfunding campaign through Fund Black Founders. And we were able to send Black Wall Street the Board Game to every player in the NBA by working closely with The Kinship Advisors. I don’t think either of us expected all of these great things to come from one grant application.”
Along with the board game, every NBA player was also sent a holiday gift guide that offered options to “Buy Black” from JLH Social Impact Fund-supported businesses.
“During the application process we saw what they were doing, and we thought, ‘wow, that is something that needs to be shared and history that needs to be told.’ So that is how we got in touch with them and how we formed a relationship,” Lauren Holiday said.
Initially, Jrue Holiday just planned on giving the game just as a gift to his Bucks teammates. But ultimately with Black history in mind, the Holidays believed that it would be a great gesture to give one to every NBA player.
“What’s wrong with educating ourselves? What’s wrong with knowing more about our history? Or even just American history, Black American history,” Jrue Holiday said. “So, we were able to spread that so the players can learn more about it. Everybody might not play it or even like it. But I think for the few that do and love it, that’s enough.”
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Black Wall Street in Tulsa went from a proud, affluent Black neighborhood filled with successful businesspeople, educators, doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs to being burned down by a white mob in 1921.
The North Tulsa neighborhood of about 10,000 Black people had grocery stores, nightclubs, restaurants, barber shops, real estate agencies, two newspapers, a movie theater, churches, a skating rink, shoe shops, pool halls, hotels, two schools, a hospital, dentists, doctors, lawyers, and wood frame homes, according to The New York Times. It was very ahead of its time as Black women owned businesses, too. What also helped the neighborhood flourish was residents primarily invested in each other instead of the rest of the city.
On the Black excellence of Black Wall Street, Jrue Holiday said: “It’s something that a lot of people, or even Black people today, are looking for. I know that there’s times where I go to different places, like Atlanta, where you can feel Black excellence.”
Black Wall Street businesses are highlighted in the board game.
“We hope when people play Black Wall Street the Board Game, they feel inspired to start their own beauty salons like Madam C.J. Walker, their own restaurants like Uncle Steve’s BBQ, and their own theaters like John and Loula Williams of Williams Dreamland Theater,” Truvel said. “We hope when people play Black Wall Street the Board Game, they realize that it is more beneficial to be an owner than to be solely a consumer. We hope when they play Black Wall Street the Board Game, they feel inspired to become an entrepreneur in real life.”
The Tulsa Race Massacre began on May 30, 1921, after an encounter between a white woman and a Black man in an elevator of a downtown Tulsa building. Black teenage shoeshiner Dick Rowland grabbed the arm of teenage white elevator operate Sarah Page after he tripped and tried to catch his fall in the elevator. A frightened Page screamed, and a fearful Rowland ran away, according to the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. On May 31, 1921, about 300 Black residents were slain and put into mass graves or thrown into a river, 800 were injured, more than 1,200 homes were destroyed, and the 35-block city neighborhood was burned down, according to the Tulsa Tribune. It still ranks among the worst racial terror attacks in U.S. history with damage that would equate to about $27 million today, according to The New York Times. Moreover, generational wealth was ruined for the district’s Black citizens and their descendants.
Jrue Holiday said he and his wife learned about the history of Black Wall Street from a friend from Tulsa. He doubts many of his Bucks teammates know about this dark part of American history.
“I could probably count on one hand, at least I believe, I could be wrong, but how many of my teammates know about the Tulsa incident,” he said. “I would say it was probably until, what, five years ago that I knew about it. So, obviously being able to have this game and this be a fun way of learning about Black history and learning about what actually happened … [this was] something that I feel like nobody really knows about and was kind of swept under the rug.”
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In July 2020, Jrue Holiday and his family pledged to donate the remainder of his salary with the Pelicans during the NBA bubble to social justice causes “as a progressive step toward combating systemic racism and socioeconomic inequality that continues to prevent Black communities from upward mobility.” Since then, the Holidays have continued to support Black-led nonprofit organizations, citywide initiatives for Black and Latino communities, historically Black colleges and universities, communities in New Orleans, Jrue Holiday’s hometown of Los Angeles, and Lauren Holiday’s hometown of Indianapolis. In early 2023, applications will reopen for Black-owned businesses and nonprofits to apply for JLH Social Impact Grant Funding.
“I guess I feel like it’s just in us to give back,” Jrue Holiday said of himself and his wife. “We’ve seen what helping others does makes us feel and how it makes them feel. It’s obviously based off of what we believe in, which is Jesus Christ, and that’s loving on everybody, loving other people, even when they don’t love us. Especially for my wife, that’s always just come easy to her.”
Lauren Holiday said Christmas is the family’s favorite holiday because it celebrates the birth of Jesus and their Christian faith, and the festive nature brings family fun. She and their daughter J.T. and son Hendrix will be in Boston when Jrue Holiday and the Bucks play against the Celtics.
The Celtics-Bucks Christmas showdown is arguably the most anticipated on the five-game Christmas Day slate, as it features the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. Holiday won an NBA title with the Bucks in 2021 and believes the franchise has what it takes to win another championship.
“We have the talent, and we have the experience,” Holiday said. “But health plays a big part, especially going into the playoffs. And then just a little bit of luck. But do I think we have the chance to win again? Yeah. And I feel like our team feels that and knows that, so that’s the plan to get back there.”
Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.
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