> I think the tipping point was when I went around to several different galleries advocating for Black Moon, a collective of black artists in Tulsa, and I wanted their artwork to get on the walls. While I made friends with the gallery owners, I didn’t get far. I became frustrated and decided to start my own gallery.
> At Columbia University, we have this arts initiative. It allows for free or reduced prices to everything arts related in New York City. That is when I became fully immersed in the arts. I was really, really lucky.
> For me, it’s about curating culture for Tulsa. I wanted to bring the cliques together. That is how you build community.
> The Tulsa Arts District’s First Friday Art Crawl goes from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. But not at Black Wall Street Gallery. We go until midnight. People want to be around other good people.
> I wanted to be a lawyer. I had hoop dreams. I wanted to be Allen Iverson. I modeled my game after Allen Iverson. I tried out at Langston and didn’t make it. There went my hoop dreams. So I majored in mathematics and got involved in student leadership, and my life took on a different trajectory.
> I was born and raised in Tulsa. We lived in every manor there is — Apache Manor, Mohawk Manor. We ended up in Turley. I had no idea I was poor. My dad hosted all these barbecues and cookouts for the neighborhood. I thought we were rich.
> We were in Section 8 housing, and my mom never liked where we lived. She had a certain class about her.
> In high school, I was a smart kid who didn’t apply himself and was pretty good at basketball.
> I moved to New York City because I thought Tulsa had challenged me enough. If I am going to make it, I need to be challenged in a place with so much music and arts. I was there for graduate school and to teach. I stayed 10 years. New York solidified for me that I didn’t have to remain ignorant and I could learn things on my own. I took a lot of people’s word about things. My mom’s fears were mine. There were opportunities for me to truly learn histories — whether art or music history — and I delved really deep into philosophy. My dissertation was on mathematics and philosophy. The intersection of the two is logic.
> I used to be a people pleaser. I am now a bridge. One could say I am bridging south Tulsa and north Tulsa. A bridge is designed to be stepped on. I accept that.
> When people come in to the gallery, I talk to them about white supremacy, white privilege, the history of the massacre. We are having honest, intellectual discourse.
> I don’t like the term minority. In a global sense, we are not a minority. I would like to get out of those terms. It’s a person of color.
> One encounters a painting. There is an interpretation of that painting. That can do something to the individual. If you are looking at a painting by Alexander Tamahn and it’s a backpack with hope on it and there’s a bullet in there, you are going to look at it and have some thoughts. I hope you are not thinking the kid deserved it and the police are always right. I would hope you would not have that thought. It’s more like that poor kid. You are thinking of children. Can you get to the humanity?
> All the talk is about reconciliation. What about conciliation?
> The gallery is a space no more than 700 square feet changing the city. That’s astounding to me.
> I say to myself that the ancestors deserve more. And I work. In the gallery, I feel them there. One thing that history doesn’t always record is their sacrifices. I stand on their shoulders. I would not be in that space without the ancestors.
> I don’t know anything for sure 25 years from now. It reminds me to be hopeful and to keep working.
> There is a Tulsa I hope for. It’s progressive. It’s healed. It looks equitable. It looks just. It looks happy.
> I became a better man by virtue of reading Bell Hooks. I became a better leader by virtue of reading Bell Hooks. I became more of myself.
> I meditate every day. Most days, I wake up at 5 a.m. I have my cigarette and my coffee.
> This is what I want the young entrepreneurs to know. When those invoices start coming in and you have people on your payroll and they want their paychecks and you still have to pay for your everyday expenses, it’s rather costly. It’s going to be more expensive than you think.
> Just do something different. There is a lot of education there.
> Be willing to rid yourself of your dogma. And learn a new thing every day about a culture to which you do not belong.
See other interviews in the How I Got Here series
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