Darrell Kelley “Black Wall Street”
Darrell Kelley doesn’t shy away from songs about social justice. His work has been stacked the past year with protest songs detailing the suffering Black Americans have faced. His new single “Black Wall Street,” now looks at the horrific tale of the Tulsa Race Massacre and the events leading up to it. The massacre happened in 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Greenwood District was home to thousands of successful Black Americans, and it has often been described as almost utopian. However, one white woman lying about a Black man assaulting her sparked a mob of white people to tear through the Greenwood District, burning it down and killing hundreds of Black citizens. Kelley remembers these victims and recounts their story with sadness and respect.
The backing track for this song is simple, because the story is what needs to be highlighted. This isn’t some song that you can just throw on for background music at a party. The subject matter and the message make it a track you have to sit down and listen to. It seems like the point of a lot of Darrell Kelley’s music is to inform. It reminds me of oral tradition; stories being passed through generations in the form of songs or poems. Kelley has taken the enormity of the terrible event and focused it into an accessible form. It is succinct and reverent, first explaining how wonderful Black Wall Street truly was, and then showing how it was all taken away within moments. While this story is only one example of the tradgdies Black Americans have had to face, it is a big glaring example of what racism and hatred can cause people to do to each other.
Kelley aims to inspire and educate with his music, and I think “Black Wall Street” does just that. It’s definitely something that could bring about even more discussion and curiosity into the subject, keeping it alive. What happened to the people living in the Greenwood District shouldn’t be allowed to be buried again. I think that is the overarching message of the track; You need to listen, to understand, and to remember. While the actual massacre itself was a disgusting event, the fact that it was practically forgotten about for so long by most of the US is even worse. Music like Darrell Kelley’s is so important because it creates new documentation and keeps the story alive.
It’s a new age for protest music, and Darrell Kelley seems up for the challenge. His songs preserve pieces of Black American history in a new way. He shows that you can sing about difficult subjects while maintaining an enlightened spirit. “Black Wall Street” brings about intense feelings the first time you listen through; sorrow and rage and disbelief. Even if you know what happened that day, this track really cuts to the core of it. While there is no way to go back in time and alter the past, we can hope that in the future that we do a whole hell of a lot better.