The owner and curator of the Black Wall Street Gallery in SoHo, which has an exhibition commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, said that the exterior of the gallery was vandalized three times this week and called on the police to treat it as a hate crime.
The owner, Ricco Wright, said in an interview that the gallery, on Mercer Street, had been defaced on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of this week and that at one point, white paint was smeared on the window, obscuring the words “Black Wall Street Gallery.”
“A literal white washing,” Wright said in an interview on Thursday. “We’re going to leave that there and just put another vinyl sticker above it with the same lettering to let them know when they go low, we go high.”
“It was both deliberate and intentional for someone to white wash Black Wall Street on the exact date 100 years ago when the massacre happened,” he added.
Detective Denise Moroney, a spokeswoman for the New York Police Department, said that the authorities responded twice — once on Monday and again on Tuesday — to calls about vandalism at the gallery. The police are investigating but have yet to make any arrests, she said, adding that the department’s hate-crime task force was notified after both reports were filed.
One of the reports was related to “white paint” used “to paint over the storefront letters,” the police said; the second report said that someone had used white paint to paint the letters “EDHRLL” on a window display. A post on the gallery’s Instagram account also showed graffiti on the door that said, cryptically, “ETC REAL ART.”
Wright said he was calling on the police to not only investigate the vandalism as a hate crime, but to immediately deem it as such.
This month, gallery officials are seeking to honor the people who lost their lives in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, in which a white mob destroyed a vibrant African American community in Tulsa, Okla. The exhibition, “21 Piece Salute,” features 21 pieces by 21 contemporary Black artists, and has been on display since May 27.
A Black Wall Street Gallery was first founded by Wright in Tulsa in 2018. He then opened an outpost in New York City in October, at a different location in SoHo. The New York gallery moved just last week to its new address, at 26 Mercer Street.
The original Tulsa gallery has been renamed the Greenwood Gallery, and is now run by his cousin Sequena Alexander, who is known as Queen, and who has taken over its lease. Wright had run for mayor of Tulsa in 2020 but dropped out after being accused of sexual misconduct.
At a news conference at the gallery on Thursday, Wright was joined by Gale Brewer, the Manhattan borough president, and Gregg Bishop, the former commissioner of the N.Y.C. Department of Small Business Services, who said they would not tolerate hate in New York.
“We’re not backing down,” Wright said in the interview. “We, as a community, are focused on unity and love and we will continue to operate that way.”