A sneakers store builds a bridge where Black Wall Street once stood
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For Venita Cooper, the idea to open a limited-edition sneaker store came from a friend.
“I moved to Tulsa about five and a half years ago,” Cooper said. “A friend of mine who saw me shopping for sneakers on my phone was like, ‘You know, you should just open a sneaker store.’ I was like, ‘You can’t just open a sneaker store because I want sneakers.’ It turns out you can.”
She opened Silhouette Sneakers & Art in 2019, in the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma. At the turn of the century, the neighborhood was a prosperous community known as Black Wall Street, but in 1921, a white mob attacked the Black residents and burned many of the buildings. In the century since, the community has rebuilt and Greenwood has become a tourist destination.
“One of the things that really helps us is the tourism that comes through Black Wall Street,” Cooper said. “On the one hand, the types of sneakers that we sell, the type of store that we are, it’s destination retail. But also we get traffic from the tourists coming through Greenwood and wanting to learn more about that history.”
For Cooper, sneakers are a bridge.
“We have a very fraught history of separation and division,” she said. “Sneakers is one of those things that really brings people together.”
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