During the 1990s, Ananda Lewis was the television host of the popular, young adult-oriented BET talk show “Teen Summit.” The topics on the show dealt with complicated issues surrounding teenagers.
She was also a veejay on MTV, a model, and the host of her own television talk show, “The Ananda Lewis Show.”
Lewis is a breast cancer survivor and an advocate for cancer care, particularly for women of color.
In addition to her great accomplishments in media and activism, Lewis is also very passionate about carpentry. It was a skill passed down to her by her grandmother who survived the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
On Friday, September 29, 2023, Lewis will be featured in the upcoming six-part docuseries, “Rebuilding Black Walk Street,” premiering on OWN.
The show is hosted by actor Morris Chestnut and features a team of builders. The audience is exposed to Greenwood’s history and to many descendants of early Black Wall Street residents.
The Tulsa Race Massacre was an eighteen-hour ordeal occurring from May 31 through June 1, 1921. The mostly Black neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma was attacked by a white mob, destroying homes and businesses. Between 150 and 300 people lost their lives in one of the most heinous acts of racial violence in United States history.
‘“Rebuilding Black Wall Street” is about reclaiming the land and the life that was stolen from our people in Tulsa, Oklahoma,” said Lewis. “It is emotional, educational, inspiring, and gripping. It’s so many things rolled up in one.”
Lewis says she was invited to be a part of the project years ago by one of the producers, Ri-Karlo Handy with Sunwise Media. Handy is one of the executive producers along with Chestnut. He is also one of the show’s creators.
She says Handy had no idea her grandmother was a survivor of the Massacre as a child. Lewis’ grandmother only survived because her mother hid her, and her siblings, under the house. Handy was also oblivious to how much the project meant personally to Lewis.
Lewis was raised by her grandmother. She says her grandmother was a bit of a renegade who took woodshop class with her male counterparts, and she was one of the first girls to wear pants in her peer group.
“I was at the end of her beautiful way of teaching me, and that was through making her own mistakes and fixing them,” said Lewis. “I was a kid who broke a lot of stuff. I broke her table, and she got her screw gun; and she made me fix it.”
Lewis says the show is a dream come true. She can revere the memory of her grandmother as the woman who taught her how to build, and as the woman who survived the raid on Black Wall Street.
Reflecting on Black Wall Street and beyond, Lewis argues that African Americans are still impacted by the wrongs committed against them in the past. Black folks, she says, must also understand that they are in a relationship with a nation that abused them, wronged them, and neglected them.
She also says Black people are most resilient when they stick together.
“However, this does not mean the institution that wronged us should not step up and make it right, like it has for everybody else it’s wronged,” said Lewis. “I believe once that gap is bridged, we will be able to start to achieve the things that have been denied to us.”
Events like the Tulsa Massacre, says Lewis, have denied Black people generational wealth. “We built wealth, we built a city that was thriving on its own, and it was destroyed,” she said. “We have still found ways to thrive in spite of it.”
“Rebuilding Black Wall Street” featuring Ananda Lewis premieres on OWN Friday, September 29th.
Keith L. Underwood is the host of the KBLA Talk 1580 entertainment radio show, “Black In The Green Room.” A former entertainment publicist, he currently develops platforms for performers, creatives, and Hollywood execs to shine and inspire. IG: @umaworldwide.