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Reno duo honoring Black Wall Street with new youth center to educate, empower

Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 11:17 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Donald Griffin and RoMar Tolliver have each long been involved in improving the Reno/Sparks community. But now, they’re doing it as one.

“He had his vision going, I had my vision going,” said Griffin, sitting alongside Tolliver. “It became our dream to be here.”

Inside their recently rented space at 351 S. Wells Avenue in Reno, the duo is collaborating to create Black Wall Street - a center dedicated to crafting young minds into curious and courageous members of society.

The name pays homage to Black Wall Street - an early 1900s community of businesses and more cultivated by African Americans in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Black Wall Street was destroyed during the Tulsa Race Massacre, often referred to as the most violent act of racial violence in America’s history. Many hadn’t learned about it until conversations around racism and social justice strongly arose in 2020.

“It was an emergency once we started seeing our brothers and sisters die. There’s not enough of us stepping up to the plate to insure the safety of our children,” said Griffin. “This will be the safety for the children. Come in here, learn something and know what kind of person they want to become.”

Griffin says Black Wall Street will offer all types of resources to all ages. From school support and supplies to clothes for job interviews. But their main focus is opening the doors of knowledge and reading to as many young minds as possible.

They’ve received hundreds of donated books and already have a wide array of topics available.

“We’re trying to get Reno reading,” said Tolliver. “Not just the black community, but everybody.”

“A book can change a life. It has for me.”

Griffin moved to Reno two decades ago, hoping to escape a life of homelessness and drug abuse in Los Angeles. Tolliver spent some of his young adult years in jail.

Both know what it’s like to overcome those obstacles and succeed. Now they want the same for countless others.

“If I can avoid somebody going through what I went through or half of what I went through, I did my job,” said Tolliver.

“I can share my story of strength, wisdom and hope and how I overcame it,” said Griffin. “Hopefully you can get something from that. That way you’re not standing on the corner or selling your body to get your fix.”

The actual Black Wall Street (within the Greenwood District in Tulsa) featured some of the earliest successes from African American entrepreneurs. Griffin and Tolliver hope to create their center and program in a similar fashion.

“Black Wall Street is a feeling of building,” said Griffin. “We’ve seen what our ancestors did, they had dentists office, grocery stores and barbershops.”

“It grew so much in such a short time,” said Tolliver. “That’s the best blueprint to try to follow to re-instill some building in the community.”

Connect with Donald Griffin.

Connect with RoMar Tolliver

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