“Fire In Little Africa” Album Commemorates 100th Anniversary Of Tulsa Race Massacre
The album “Fire in Little Africa” is the culmination of more than 50 Oklahoma artists gathering in March 2020 to commemorate the Tulsa Race Massacre through song. KGOU’s Katelyn Howard sat down with Tulsa hip-hop artists St. Domonick and Ayilla to discuss the project.
Katelyn Howard:The album not only reflects on the history of Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Race Massacre, but it also looks to the future. Will you elaborate on that?
St. Domonick: Yeah. See, what we tried to do was tell the album in a linear sense. So starting in the 1920s and then ending in current time. So the sound and the production we use, it will change as the album progresses. So when we get towards the end of the album, that's when we get to the regrowth, the rebuilding and the future of what we can do to make us back to 1921 Black Wall Street. Just restore the feeling of Greenwood. That sense of community and entrepreneurship and the product of us all coming together and building something.
Katelyn Howard:So the title of the project is “Fire in Little Africa.” Where does that name come from?
Ayilla:Yeah. So Black Wall Street was considered the “Little Africa” of the United States. There were also other Black Wall Streets across the nation, but Tulsa was definitely one of the more prominent and prosperous ones. One of the biggest ones as well. A lot of people, when you come to Tulsa, you think that it's one street because we call it Black Wall Street. And in reality, there was blocks and blocks and miles and miles of successful Black business owners. And so they deemed the community “Little Africa.” So there's actually a picture from when it happened, and they labeled it “Fire in Little Africa.”
St. Domonick: It transcends even what it meant back then. There's a fire in “Little Africa” now burning because of what we're trying to do with this album. Because of the people that are in the community trying to get us back to greatness, you know. There's a fire burning just with the energy and the ambition with people trying to get back to our roots of what was built a hundred years ago.
Katelyn Howard: And about 140 tracks were recorded over just five days in March of last year. Out of the 21 songs that made it onto the album, what are some that stick out to you and why?
St. Domonick: “City of Dreams” which is a track with me pretty much trying to embody the state of mind that Dick Rowland was in at the time of right before - like pretty much him having a dream and a premonition of what was going to happen in a few days. So the song starts off, "I had a dream. It was May 29. I was sitting in the cell. Devil’s playing with my life. Now the tension’s getting high. I could feel it in the night. But if I'm wrong, if I'm right. We won't go without a fight.” I just thought it was a cool way to tell the story of what happened, you know, and I felt like me embodying Dick Rowland was probably the best way to do that. It was my first time ever trying to speak from another person's perspective. And I never met him so I tried to do my best to do my due diligence to his story and what happened to him.
Ayilla: “Party Plane.” I love that one because it reminds me of a family reunion, and it reminds me of that environment of Black Wall Street, as well as “Shining.” That's the one I'm on. It's from a standpoint that's more I would say rememberable of the time that was positive back then. Like a lot of it that's talked about is the traumatic side of things, but I think it's really, really important to talk about the success. So that's some of the reasons I like those two songs.
Katelyn Howard:The album was recorded at the Greenwood Cultural Center as well as the Skyline Mansion, the former home of one of Tulsa’s founders, Tate Brady, who was a Ku Klux Klan member and played a role in instigating the massacre. What was the significance of recording at that location?
St. Domonick: We turned the Brady Mansion to the trap. We turned it upside down. They used to have KKK meetings there. Now we're meeting there to think about how we can get Black people reparations and build our community back and get the strength and our pride and the sense of who we are back. So that house is just a symbol and a message that anything is possible. Don't let nobody tell you that you can't do anything. That's what I feel like that house represents.
Katelyn Howard:As an artist who is part of Tulsa’s emerging hip-hop scene, how would you describe it?
Ayilla:Man, it's beautiful. I love it. I love every single part of it. I love that we have so much variety. We also have our own sound. But it's like - almost like we're the melting pot, similar to how Black Wall Street was of just different sounds and different vibes coming to Tulsa to be prosperous. Back then, we had that same sound in Tulsa where it’s just like we have everything from street hip hop to conscious hip hop to live band hip hop to R&B even. Like it's very broad and it's very unique that we can all have that here in one place.
Howard: “Fire In Little Africa” is out Friday, May 28 through Motown Records/Black Forum in collaboration with Tulsa’s Bob Dylan Center and Woody Guthrie Center.
KGOU relies on voluntary contributions from readers and listeners to further its mission of public service with arts and culture reporting for Oklahoma and beyond. To contribute to our efforts, donate online, or contact our Membership department.