Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Morning After Black History Month

Did U.S. Supreme Court hide Black Wall Street in Muscogee?

Greenwood’s Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church and The J.B. Stradford Hotel share more in common than historic real estate. “In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”  John 14:2

By Eric Stradford, U.S. Marine Corps, Retired

AMWS March 1, 2021, Muscogee Creek Nation – President Joseph R. Biden has pledged to study reparations for African Americans.  His administration seeks to HEAL THE SOUL OF AMERICA by holding his own government accountable.  Among the stuff that needs “governmental accounting” is how much, to whom and for how long.

To fully grasp the severity of a 100-year-old case for reparations, one might backtrack from the two-day Tulsa “riot” of 1921, wondering how free Blacks ended up here in the first place. 

J.B. Stradford was among the wealthiest businessmen on Tulsa’s Black Wall Street. His father, Julius Caesar (J.C.), according to family accounts, was enslaved.  J.C.’s owner, assumed to be white, never gave J.C. a last name.  But, he could read.  “During J.C.’s time in slavery, his owner’s daughter befriended him and taught him to read.”

Perhaps by coincidence or divine appointment, J.C. “adopted” the name Stradford after his escape to Stratford, Ontario.  Reportedly, “J.C. forged a travel permission slip, signing his owner’s name, and escaped to Stratford, Ontario. Changing one letter, he adopted the surname of Stradford.”  That assumption separates the literate J.C. from a lineage of enslaved Africans migrating with their “owners” along the infamous “Trail of Tears.”

The substitution of a D for a T has disenfranchised free Africans since before William Shakespear’s poetry made his birthplace internationally famous.  By simply changing a letter, the entire lexicon inherited by America is itself subject to distrust.  Words matter, and how they are spelled could make all the difference in property you thought you owned in a place that perhaps never existed.

The city in Oklahoma we know as Tulsa exists within the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Tulsa was settled between 1828 and 1836 by the Lochapoka Band of Creek Native American tribe.  The name "Loachapoka" means "turtle killing place" in Muskogee, with locha meaning "turtle" and poga meaning "killing place.

Unlike their immigrant “neighbors,” these indigenous “settlers” migrated from what we know to be Alabama.  They packed everything including the African slaves they owned, and a set out on a forced march to a land of broken promises.  In 1832, American “settlers” occupied Muscogee land, renaming it “Chambers” County, Alabama.  The county seat, LaFayette was the birthplace of my mother, Alma Catherine Thomas Stradford, as well as heavyweight boxing champion, Joe Louis.

The territorial boundaries claimed as sovereign and controlled by the “Indian” nations living in what were then known as the “Indian” Territories—the portion of the early United States west of the Mississippi River not yet claimed or allotted to become Oklahoma—were fixed and determined by national treaties with the United States federal government. These recognized the tribal governments as dependent but internally sovereign, or autonomous nations under the sole jurisdiction of the United States federal government.

On July 9, 2020, the United States Supreme Court, for purposes of the Major Crimes Act, ruled that land throughout much of eastern Oklahoma reserved for the Creek Nation since the 19th century remains a Native American territory.  That means the lawful jurisdiction for a major crime would be the Muscogee Creek Nation Supreme Court. 

The “landmark” ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma arguably and residually upholds the sovereignty of the Creek nation.  It establishes Tulsa, the Greenwood community, its census tracts and all its inhabitants within and under the protection of a sovereign nation.

That ruling means the attack on Black Wall Street was not just a race riot, but an act of war by citizens of the United States on citizens of a sovereign nation.  

Up to now, African Americans, anchored by the Historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church, have maintained a presence in Greenwood.  But, value and vision for Black Wall Street has wrestled in the rubble of yet another nightmare mislabeled as a dream deferred. 

Prior to its statehood in 1907, about half of the land in Oklahoma in the east, including the Tulsa metro area today, had belonged to the Five Civilized Tribes. There had been several decades of warfare and conflict during the 19th century over these lands between the Native Americans and the United States, including the Trail of Tears.

One might note, that nowhere in the legend of black cowboys do we find them killing indigenous people – i.e. Indians.

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation includes the Creek people and descendants of their African-descended slaves who were forced by the United States government to relocate from their ancestral homes in the Southeast to Indian Territory in the 1830s, during the Trail of Tears.

In 1833, the United States government made a treaty with the Muscogee (Creek) Indians, and conveyed a large part of the Indian Territory to the tribe.  Unlike most treaties, the Creek obtained the land under fee simple title, rather than the federal government holding the land in trust for the tribe.  

In 1866 the Creek tribe ceded the western half of the land to the United States and in 1872 the land was surveyed.  The survey contained an error, and as a result, 5,575.57 acres of Creek land was turned over to the Sac and Fox tribe.

By 1906, the United States Congress passed the Oklahoma Enabling Act, which had been taken to disestablish the reservations, and enabling Oklahoma's statehood. The former reservation lands, those of the Five Civilized Tribes as well as the other tribes in the state, were allocated into areas by tribe that were given suzerainty governing rights to the tribe to handle internal matters for Native Americans within the boundaries, but otherwise the state retained jurisdiction for non-Native Americans and for all other purposes such as law enforcement and prosecution.

In 1924, Congress passed a law allowing the Creek Nation to sue the United States for compensation arising out of government misdeeds from a treaty, agreement, or law of the United States.  The Creek Nation sued for compensation in the United States Court of Claims.

In the Court of Claims, the United States admitted that the Creek Nation was entitled to compensation, the disagreement was over the way that the damages would be calculated.

The United States want the damages to be fixed at the value of the property in 1873, the tribe wanted it to be the value of the land at the time that they filed suit. The Court of Claims ruled in favor of the tribe, setting the value at $30 per acre as the value in 1926.

McGirt v. Oklahoma was a landmark United States Supreme Court case which ruled that, as pertaining to the Major Crimes Act, much of the eastern portion of the state of Oklahoma remains as Native American lands of the prior Indian reservations of the Five Civilized Tribes, never disestablished by Congress as part of the Oklahoma Enabling Act of 1906. McGirt was related to Sharp v. Murphy, heard in the 2018–19 term on the same question but which was believed to be deadlocked due to Justice Neil Gorsuch's recusal; Gorsuch recused because he had prior judicial oversight of the case. Sharp was decided per curiam alongside McGirt.

Jonodev Chaudhuri, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, said the decision is a huge win for Indian Country and a profoundly impactful day for the tribe. “Many folks are in tears,” said Chaudhuri, ambassador of the tribal nation. “Despite a history of many broken promises, as is true with many tribal nations, the citizens feel uplifted that for once the United States is being held to its promises.”

Chaudhuri said the decision provides jurisdictional clarity and that the tribe will continue to work to improve the health, safety and welfare of tribal members and non-tribal members alike.  “Creek Nation has a long history of working with its local, state and federal partners to protect the interests of all people in its boundaries and the clarity brought by today’s positions will only enhance that,” he said.

The majority of the indigenous peoples of Turtle Island, also known as “American Indians” (including the numerous Creek and Cherokee settlers) came from the Southern states.  During the Civil War, they largely favored the Confederacy, in part because the institution of slavery being common within the Five Civilized Tribes.


Friday, February 5, 2021

On The Right Side of a Just Economy

 By Eric Stradford, U.S. Marine Corps, Retired and Stephanie Walker Stradford

AMWS February 5, 2021, Tulsa, OK -  The United States House of Representatives voted yesterday to strip Marjorie Taylor Greene of committee assignments, rendering the elected official useless to her Georgia constituents and worthless to shared values for the Party of Lincoln.

Honorable Republicans generally value President Ronald Reagan’s vision of “a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere” as #equity in One Nation Under God.  But attitudes and actions by a dwindling minority will ultimately land them, their constituents and prospective beneficiaries on the wrong side of history.

The right side of history, purely from a Republican perspective, is all about #equity.  Whether you consider unprecedented events of 2021 as coincidental or by divine appointment, the facts on a temporal timeline are indisputable -- even among “wacky” conspiracy theorists. “It's important for us to separate ourselves from the people that are the wacky weeds," according to one prominent Republican senator.

Separation from “wacky weeds” is the process noble U.S. Senators (on both sides) face next week in their “nobles oblige.”  They have been called, anointed and appointed to convict the 45th President of the United States. One should note that a citizen, elected as President of the United States, does not cease to be accountable after he leaves The White House.  A sitting president and a former president are uniquely and perpetually connected by “nobles oblige” or “The Presidency.”

Reality for the American Republican party is intrinsically reliant on its foundation, its purpose for being, and the people it serves. A believer might assert that God created Democrats with a vision for meeting needs and Republicans with a vision for provision in meeting needs.   In that vision for “a shining city on a hill,” all news and all politics must result in provision to meet local human needs. 

Equity is the one case yet to be made in achieving a  #JustEconomy.   In Tulsa, OK, a #JustEconomy is being quantified by TIME and MONEY.  The timeline within the temporal economy of Free Africans in America is measured in the 100-year period between May 31, 1921 and June 1, 2021 (TIME).  From the local point of view, the topic for the conversation is Reparations for Slavery.

The national action (MONEY) shapes bipartisan inclusion on an unprecedented Act of Congress.  Legislation in the 116th Congress includes H.R. 41 which might support “reconstruction” of financial institutions owned and operated by historically disadvantaged Americans.  The term “minority” will need to be replaced for the provision to sustain a #JustEconomy.

In 1986, Congress passed Public Law 99-244 which designated February as "National Black (Afro-American) History Month.” This law noted that February 1, 1986 would “mark the beginning of the sixtieth annual public and private salute to Black History.”

In 2021, the 95th annual public and private salute to Black History builds on the political promise, HEALING THE SOUL OF AMERICA. 

Execution of an historic Reconstruction of American values follows an unprecedented 2nd impeachment, trial and conviction of racist, xenophobic domestic terror. 

A citizen’s tweet to The White House proposes a regional demonstration project. It invites Senators from “Red State” Oklahoma and Senators from kinda, use-to-be a “Red State” Georgia in modeling a regional approach to #EconomicSecurity

In a #JustEconomy, Red and Blue is PURPLE. If #WeThePeople can see it, #WeThePeople can be it. “Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not.” - Robert Kennedy

The first deposit in the brand new Vibranium Bank and Trust of Black Wall Street, USA includes a Living Trust that systemically qualifies and intentionally benefits  American youth in Generations Z and A.  CDFI certification of a qualifying 501c3 public charity will help define the responsible economic entity.  CDE certification of a Veteran/Historically Disadvantaged American social enterprise accelerates substantive engagement by qualifying contractors in and supporting the targeted underserved community.

Reconstruction of American values is hardly a new concept for achieving and sustaining a #JustEconomy.

American Reconstruction gave birth to the “Party of Lincoln.”  As a party, its celebration of #BlackHistoryMonth calls for a review and valuation of some undervalued #equity that got us all to this point.

Hiram Rhodes Revels of Mississippi became the first African American senator in 1870. He got there by reinvesting #AmazingGrace in the Mississippi state legislature. 

Revels prayed, believing that #PrayerChangesThings. 

That prayer—one of the most impressive and eloquent prayers that had ever been delivered in the Mississippi Senate Chamber—made Revels a United States Senator. He made a profound impression upon all who heard him. It impressed those who heard it that Revels was not only a man of great natural ability but that he was also a man of superior attainments.

During Revel’s time and since, Americans of similar attainments have struggled to obtain and maintain trust.  One might recall the undervaluation of #StolenPeoplesEquity quantified throughout #JimCrow, #FreedmansBank, #BlackWallStreet, #TuskegeeVaccinations, #BloodySunday, #EmanuelNine, and a lineage of inequity even older than America itself.  In considering the future of any political party, one must seriously examine the historical foundation upon which the party will exist.

And just when your hope for a #JustEconomy seemed within in reach, the goal posts systemically move just beyond your historically disadvantaged bank account. Closer scrutiny of that historical foundation reveals yet one more dirty little secret. Tulsa, OK sits on land the United States probably never owned in the first place.   “The United States Supreme Court ruled July 9, 2020 in McGirt v. Oklahoma to keep the United States’ sacred promise to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of a protected reservation.

The court’s decision allows the Muscogee Nation to maintain its established sovereignty and territorial boundaries.  That court decision puts Black Wall Street, Tulsa somewhere, perhaps the Twilight Zone between the United States and a sovereign tribal nation.

In search of a #JustEconomy

Source: Wirth Law Offices



CALL FOR COLLABORATORS:  This collaborative document supports engagement in the NATIONAL LEARN-2-EARN project, Return To Black Wall Street.  The J.B. Stradford hotel was one of 600 businesses destroyed May 31-June 1, 1921.  Our story presents an opportunity for #WeThePeople to approach a 100 year old "sticky problem" from the perspective, "Where do we go from here?"  

APPLY FOR INCLUSION in our ongoing development, and let’s put our expertise and ideas together for a #JustEconomy. This format encourages participation from everyone on a MICROSOFT TEAMS collaborative platform.