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Intrigued by 'Black Wall Street' and Tulsa Race Massacre, Suffolk café owner reflects on visit to historic site

wall street cafe.jpg
Posted at 3:15 PM, Jun 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-02 17:21:53-04

SUFFOLK, Va. -- Over the doors at the Wall Street Café, you will see the words, "Never Forget Greenwood," the area in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the Tulsa Race Massacre happened on May 31, 1921. The Greenwood section of Tulsa was where a successful Black community, called "Black Wall Street," was ransacked and burned to the ground by a group of white rioters.

"It's one thing for me to be from Virginia, for individuals here, over here who have never heard of it... I never knew it existed,” Domenick Epps, the café’s owner, told News 3.

That event piqued his interest, compelling him to take a five-day trip to the historic site.

"It was only right for me to physically go with my family so we all could see personally and in person,” Epps explained. "I met people that were born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that never heard the story. That alone speaks volumes."

He returned to Suffolk Tuesday night and said it was a trip that filled him with emotions.

"It was emotional from a sad standpoint,” Epps said. “But it was also a very empowering standpoint when you look at and know of the history of what transpired."

The historic event and success of Black Wall Street was the inspiration for Epps to open this café. The lessons he learned over there, he said, were not just something he learned for himself - he added that businesses along the street can also learn from them.

"There's a lot of Black-owned businesses on this strip, but they don't own the building,” Epps said. “So, it's time for us to change our mindset and say, 'Listen, you are an owner. You're not just going to make someone else rich and pay them rent forever.'"

Now, he says he wants to continue teaching others about what transpired on that day. He also wants to inspire others to build their personal wealth – as the Greenwood community demonstrated successfully a century ago.

"We're going to make this a yearly thing. My kids enjoyed it, my wife enjoyed it, so it was a great family trip,” Epps said. "Even though you burn the physical, you can't burn the spiritual."