Jane Malone, Anna C. Roth Legacy Award Winner:
1. Jane, you’ve been on the front lines of social justice and equity initiatives for a number of years now. You have seen Tulsa through a lot of transformative years. To all the young women, and perhaps particularly, women of color… what would you say to those that recognize our community isn’t perfect, and are struggling with whether to become more engaged in a city with such a difficult history on the rights of women and women of color?
As women of color, we cannot afford to be complacent on issues pertaining to social justice and equity. We have an obligation and a responsibility to devote ourselves to the issues of racism and inequality. Success on eliminating social injustices will not occur without a commitment to action. Inactivity will not yield meaningful change. As former president Barak Obama once stated, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
2. Second question will be revolved around legacy. As mentioned, you have participated and led many initiatives to create a more equitable Tulsa. What kind of legacy would you like to leave for your friends, neighbors, community, and city?
I hope to leave a legacy of service as an advocate for those who experienced seasons of deprivation and voicelessness. My voice and influence were used to bring awareness to the city power-brokers regarding the inequities and social disparities that plagued my community. As a result, some city plans were modified or changed and the lives of innumerable individuals were changed in a positive way, a few are listed below.
Jerica Wortham, Greenwood Art Project, Arts & Humanities Award Winner:
1. On January 20th, the United States of America was able to witness the power of the arts on full display at a time when our country has been experiencing the fallout from the January 6th Insurrection at the United States Capitol. Through her performance, National Youth Poet Laurette, Amanda Gorman, demonstrated the significance of strengthening our humanity. As the Arts and Humanities winner for this year’s Pinnacle Awards, a Tulsa native, and poet yourself… how can Tulsa better engage with the arts – in all forms of it – to build a stronger sense of community and humanity in our own city?
I think it would serve Tulsa well to engage with the arts in two ways. The first way would be to intentionally create space making initiatives to allow authentic cultural experiences. Often times the space making activities are reduced to largely symbolic or ceremonial events that leave little room for more nuanced experiences. It is the nuanced experiences in the intimate spaces that provide a well-rounded look into the joy and strife within a culture. With that said, the second way is to both physically by attendance and financially through contributions that support initiatives speaking to the experiences of less often represented communities. When a conscious decision is made to attend events created by under-represented communities that speak directly to under-represented communities or similar endeavors it speaks to really being prepared to listen to the heart of a community. Hearing the heart of an artist that has created a work based on their experiences and the experiences of those they love is to get a snapshot into what it means to exist in someone else’s world. Being brave enough to walk through that experience is the first step to identifying, learning from, and building an understanding necessary to develop the infrastructure for meaningful change within a community. If the only experience with art is from a plug and play narrative it does not meet the needs of the community and the community as a whole is not served. If the only art experienced is art that is curated to the taste of the majority growth will not occur. What does it mean to walk into an environment where no one looks like you and to embrace it on an ongoing basis? That is the genesis of art transforming community toward stronger, unified, and equitably-represented spaces.
2. What are a few pieces of artistic work that have added value to your world lately?
I have been inspired locally by the work of, Eddye Kaye Allen, who uses her platform to highlight the beauty that was once the Greenwood District. Her art displays the economic vitality, and also the humanity of the space. We are able to experience families, students, and community in a way that is not always represented in the narrative. I think it’s easy to speak to the destruction of space if it’s reduced to the infrastructure. However, she shares that there were real life human beings that walked this district, that grew this district, and that engaged as a way of life throughout this district. Human life is priceless and her work speaks to the humans that made not only Greenwood, but the community great. Another work of art that has added value to my life recently is the work of, Alexander Tahman, located on the Metro building just north of 46th and North Peoria Avenue. That work became a full circle moment in my life. I once lived within walking distance of that space and understood what it meant to be a resident of that community from the perspective of those that did not live in that community. The intentional lack of investment in that district often highlights a pariah nature to the greater Tulsa Metro area.
Knowing that members of that community have a beautiful space to engage with the changemakers impacting Tulsa in their own unique ways is a powerful dynamic. Adding to that, these people likely look like them. What does that representation mean to a community that doesn’t often get to see itself as beautiful, and necessary? While its residents are very aware of the love that is encapsulated in that community, it’s often doing the work of trying to explain that fact to the greater metro area and I think this piece Alex and his team has created highlights just how many gems are available within this space.
Vanessa Hall-Harper, Tulsa City Council Chair, Community Service Award Winner:
1. In a recent panel discussion, you highlighted the significance of food insecurity and the importance of addressing food deserts around Tulsa. What are some paths of action for residents interested in improving Tulsa health outcomes through this issue?
Food security is just one spoke in the wheel of a healthy community. A healthy community also consists of adequate and affordable housing, public safety, public transportation and economic development. A “healthy community” is achieved when we change and or strengthen the beliefs, values, attitudes and ultimately the behavior of residents as it relates to the very community in which we live. Health is not merely the absence of disease, but rather a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being. The most effective paths of action that residents can take to improve health outcomes is to become an advocate and not just an observer in creating a healthy community. For example, citizens can register to vote and choose to vote for leaders who are serious about changing the status quo of our community. Get actively involved with organizations and volunteer their time and resources toward initiatives whose missions are focused on creating a healthy community. Some of the following meet that criteria: North Tulsa Community Coalition (NTCC), Black Wall Street Chamber of Commerce, Power Group Community Development Corporation, District 1 Housing Policy Committee, Terence Crutcher Foundation, METCARES, and 100 Black Men.
2. Former President, Barrack Obama, acknowledged in his farewell address that he would be taking on a new title after 8 years in the White House: Citizen. He spoke about the role as an act of activism and engagement in each citizen’s community. Could you speak to the role Tulsans have in shaping our community and the power of engagement relative to policy change?
Citizens have a responsibility to their community. That includes civic engagement, which serves as an opportunity to make a difference in your community. You can show up at City Halls, Town Halls, and school board meetings to voice your concerns. By educating yourself on outcomes concerning your community, you are promoting the quality of life in your community. That means you are being a part of the process in both a political and apolitical sense. When the community shows up in numbers, policy has no choice but to move. Frederick Douglass said, “power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will”. Power to the People.
Ashley Philippsen, Impact Tulsa, Corporate Business Award Winner:
1. With more than a decade of establishing engaging curriculum, standing as a policy and nonprofit leader, you have a strong understanding of the nonprofit and public sector in Tulsa. How do you view the role of corporate businesses in shaping a more equitable Tulsa?
Corporate businesses play a critical role in achieving equity across our city. Corporate businesses can be strategic in how they do social impact work. In Tulsa we have a range of data across sectors like education, housing, access to food, workforce, etc. How does demonstrated community need influence where/how organizations deploy resources for their community impact work?
Another way corporations can shape a more equitable Tulsa is in intentional hiring–
- Where are organizations recruiting employees?
- How are internships accessible to students who cannot afford to work for free?
- What work is done to ensure that once hired, people from all backgrounds/across lines of difference actually stay in the organization?
Once businesses attract people to their organizations, how they ensure their organization is a place people will want to stay is important. How can businesses drive toward equity in this way?
- Audit compensation and pay equality
- Measure what (you say) matters—if an inclusive culture is a priority, how do you measure that, how are all levels of leadership and staff working toward that consistently?
- Be cognizant of the spoken and unspoken values. How do they show up in who is rewarded, promoted, left behind? How can processes be more transparent?
Where are businesses supporting minority and women-owned businesses when contracting out for projects, catering, etc.? Using diverse suppliers contributes to the growth of businesses owned by women, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, immigrant and people of color, veterans and LGBTQIA. Corporate businesses can develop a proactive plan to identify suppliers for a competitive bid process that puts them on equal footing with other bidders.
I believe my responses above also address this question. In short, in order to achieve equity, organizations must devote resources to addressing economic and racial disparities. Not only is it the right thing to do, but data shows diversity on teams leads to greater innovation and a stronger bottom line. Also, as Tulsa seeks to be an attractive city that retains and reclaims its residents and attracts newcomers, it is imperative that all organizations play a role in making it a vibrant place where all Tulsans thrive from cradle to career and life. There are people doing this well in organizations, so guidance is there if an organization is just starting or looking to continuously improve.
Jennettie Marshall, School Board for District 3, Education Award Winner:
1. As an elected board member for the largest school board in Tulsa, what are some of the biggest education challenges you see Tulsa facing in the coming months?
The largest educational challenges facing Tulsa Public Schools include; obtaining sufficient educational funding from the State Legislature, becoming compliant with State and Federal regulations for exceptional student services, excessive decline in student enrollment, low graduation rates, low community perception, teacher shortages, substitute teacher shortages, custodial shortages, bus driver shortages, and safely educating during times of COVID-19.
2. How can Tulsa address these challenges and establish better educational indicators as a community? Are there any resources you would like to share for those interested in getting a better understanding of Tulsa’s education system?
It’s incumbent upon the Tulsa Public Schools School District, the school board, and the community to come together to repair relationships and restore trust through the development of a strategic plan, which reflects the education needs of the entire district. This plan must have clearly developed vision and equity statements that are reflective of partnerships that promote academic excellence for the citizens of Tulsa. As we embark upon the commemoration of the 1921 Race Massacre, we must come to understand that today’s educational data still reflects Tulsa’s darkest moment in history. To grasp that understanding of our history, internalize it, and openly discuss it. This context of growth through truth will be the change agent. I would suggest as citizens everyone purchase and read “White Fragility,” by Robin Diangelo, “White Rage” by Carol Anderson, and “A Chronology of Improvement Initiatives for North Tulsa Schools” by Citizens United, for a better educational system to further our collaborative work of understanding equity, equality, and education. The Oklahoma Department of Education website highlights a study of school testing scores, which is also a resource for understanding community outcomes. The greatest resource for our community is to study the school board agenda, research recommendations, and attend board meetings. Dr. John Hope Franklin said, “If the house is to be set in order, one cannot begin with the present; he must begin with the past”.
Cheryl Cohenour, Cherokee CRC, Entrepreneur Award Winner:
1. You have spent a few decades as a small business owner in Tulsa, and been actively engaged as a volunteer for Native American firms and the City of Tulsa’s Greater Tulsa Area Indian Affairs Commission. There are few better positioned to speak to the opportunities for Native American entrepreneurship around Tulsa. Could you speak to the current business climate?
2020 proved to be a difficult year because of the pandemic and 2021 is starting out the same. It is very difficult to start, grow, or maintain certain small businesses during this climate. What I have seen is that the more successful businesses have adapted to the current business climate. What I mean by adapting is they have rethought how we have to work today in order to stay safe and protect others during a pandemic.
Restaurant owners who have adapted to increasing takeout orders are surviving. Developing working relationships with Uber Eats, Grub Hub, and Door Dash to keep their restaurants open is key. Also, any business that can move to a digital format for meetings and business opportunities are similarly successful. Zoom and Google Meets are easy to use and those businesses that are able to refocus and rethink the average work day are coming out ahead. Also, any new type of business that this climate has created such as delivery service, whether groceries, takeout, or product delivery has been a good business to be in during a Pandemic.
Covid-19 has impacted business communities of color probably more than any other group, specifically small businesses. As an example, to support these small businesses Grow with Google and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) are partnering to help create economic opportunities for Native American Business with seminars to train business owners and job seekers to gain valuable digital skills. NCAI is the country’s oldest, largest, and most representative Native American organization.
Furthermore, reach out to organizations that can help you adapt your business. Many of these organizations are free or associated with organizations that you may already belong.
2. As someone with more than 30 years of experience as a small business owner, what have been some of the largest takeaways you could share for anyone looking to get started as an entrepreneur in Tulsa?
I personally think that finding a good mentor, not necessarily in your line of business, is one of the best ways for someone who is starting their own business to immediately gain business acumen. Someone that has been there before and can help you understand the nuances of small business ownership. No need to recreate the wheel when you can find someone that can mentor you and is willing to give you just a little of their time. Also, many small businesses are started by an owner who may have the technical knowledge, but not necessarily financial knowledge of running a business. This is an area you need to fully understand and if you don’t have that knowledge you can get that through many local organizations such as Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), a program which recruits volunteers 55 and over to use their skills and time to make contributions to businesses through consulting. Taking a few classes at a local community college to understand finance. Increasing your digital knowledge and computer skills are key to being successful. Reaching out to fill the gaps in your knowledge of running a business it the top priority to have success in any business climate.
Dr. Manju Kaul, PHD, Clinical Psychologist, Health & Wellness Award Winner:
1. Manju Kaul has been a clinical psychologist for more than two decades and actively engaged with various community organizations during that time. Additionally, as an immigrant, Dr. Kaul, has a unique perspective on the challenges of getting involved in a new community. Could you speak to the immigrant experience and how volunteer engagement opportunities might build a healthier community as a whole?
As an immigrant I believe one of our biggest challenges is maintaining a balance between trying to assimilate into a new social and cultural environment while maintaining our unique identity, and remaining true to our heritage. We start by cultivating friendships, being neighborly and seeking support of other immigrants, faith groups, colleagues, and peers. We surround ourselves with people we trust to give us accurate feedback and to help guide us. With no extended familial support, our newly developed friends became our family.
I began getting involved in volunteer activities when my son first started attending school. On some level, maybe even selfishly, I knew that being involved in PTA activities would allow me to learn about the school system as well as develop friendships and relationships in a community that I wanted to fit into. Since then, multiple volunteer opportunities have presented themselves, not only in a professional capacity, but in multiple community impact activities, and where I could be representative of my cultural background and heritage.
Volunteering allows immigrants to fast track into becoming part of the community they live in. It allows us to learn how things work in new systems and connects us directly with our ability to impact and interact effectively with those systems. In turn it enriches the communities and organizations we volunteer for as well. It allows them to learn more about us, understand our culture and background and helps encourage an open conversation about diversity.
Having lived in other large metropolitan cities within the United States of America, Tulsa is unique in how welcoming it has been in providing umpteen opportunities for anyone to engage in volunteerism. I will admit that I have often undertaken new volunteer opportunities with a sense of trepidation and apprehension with regard to how people will view me. I spend time being a silent observer to understand the nuances of the community or organization I am part of, before cautiously voicing my opinions initially to assess how they were received. Once my comfort level has increased, I become a more active voice at the table. As immigrants we need to have the courage to participate, find our voice and give back . To be a healthy community we need to not just welcome all voices, but also listen to them carefully and value their perspective.
I am grateful that Tulsa continues to be such an incredible community for me, and I couldn’t be prouder to be a Tulsan!
2. From your vantage point as a clinical psychologist, what are some of the most pressing health and wellness challenges we are facing as a city after roughly a year during a pandemic?
As a clinical psychologist and a community volunteer, I have been acutely aware of the social, economic, and healthcare disparities that are prominent in our society. The chasm between the haves and have nots keeps becoming wider and the pandemic has only served to exacerbate these issues. While any negative catastrophic event impacts society as a whole it is the most vulnerable and underprivileged who pay the highest price.
The social isolation, unemployment, and health fears triggered by the pandemic have significantly increased risk for mental health issues both in children and adults. There is a sharp increase in depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. Substance use and abuse has shown a marked increase as well. Families that were dysfunctional to begin with find themselves at far greater risk for domestic violence and abuse. People such as the elderly, disabled, and youth who need external support systems, such as extended family, faith groups, activities, sports and peer support, are the ones who have been most deprived of them.
Health and economic issues are deeply intertwined. The negative economic impact of the pandemic has magnified the adversity faced by those already in poverty. Living circumstances, over-crowding, having to work a minimum wage job with little precautionary measures greatly increases risk for infection. In addition, many individuals find themselves financially unable to pay for a roof over their heads, basic utilities, food on the table, transportation or basic health care. This disproportionately impacts those who were financially impoverished to begin with, only serving to make their poor living conditions worse.
Interestingly, our accommodations and modifications for Covid in all settings from doctors’ offices, businesses, academic settings, and even scheduling appointments for vaccinations have been based heavily on the use of technology and the internet. This once again most negatively impacts those who are already disadvantaged by leaving behind those who cannot afford access to smartphones or the internet.
The pandemic has made visible systemic issues that keep the underprivileged, under served. While multiple social service organizations, faith groups, and others have heroically stepped in to fill the gaps, they can only put a temporary band-aid on a problem that requires significant policy and systemic changes. The process of recovery is going to be slow and will hopefully make us critically examine why this event has disproportionately and adversely impacted certain sections of our society. If we cannot meet the basic physiological and safety needs of every member of our society, we will fail to have learned from this crisis.
There are pivotal moments in history which show the character of a social system and shape the growth of social structures, this is one of them. I do hope we look back on this and say we did right by those who needed the most.
Janel Pasley, MHA, Tulsa City-County Health Department, Rising Star Award Winner:
1. As this year’s Rising Star, you are on the forefront of Tulsa’s next generation of leaders. How do you view the role of younger activist leaders in shaping our community dialogue around race, gender, and social inequities?
As a Black woman, the intersections between race, gender, and inequities are interwoven in my legacy. I owe it my ancestors to be an authentic representation of their wildest dreams and continue to fight for equity. “Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.” – James Baldwin. I would encourage budding activists to get connected to organizations in their community. We need to hear from you, we need your energy, we need your presence. We owe it to our ancestors to be an authentic representation of their wildest dreams and continue to fight for equity.
2. What are some of the passion projects and initiatives you are most looking forward to in 2021?
Tulsa Area United Way, Alison Anthony, CEO and President, Corporate Champion Award Winner:
1. As a former employee for Williams here in Tulsa, and now as the CEO and President for Tulsa Area United Way, no one is better suited to speak to the relationship that can exist between the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. What role does corporate social responsibility play in building these relationships throughout Tulsa? How can those connections improve lives and strengthen communities?
I’m always so humbled by the way our for-profit companies and small businesses support this community. Truly, they don’t partner with the nonprofits to bolster a Corporate Social Responsibility report. They don’t do it for rewards and recognition. Most companies demonstrate their service to the community where their employees live and work as a deeply held value.
They join together and serve on behalf of others with the recognition that we all need help sometimes.
They are grateful for the opportunity to give back. I think of the Williams Audit team – for years they selflessly and quietly got together for lunch and fellowship once a week and made blankets together for Hospice patients.
Not only does service improve the lives of those who are served, but those who serve are truly happier and more fulfilled. Companies that encourage community generosity and engagement know that their employees are more engaged and more collaborative team members. I chose to work for Williams in 1999, not because I knew anything about the Energy business, but because I saw their employees on boards and at community events. That was the type of “energy” I wanted to be a part of and I stayed for 18 years!
Corporate Social Responsibility is more than a “should.” It’s a business and community benefit, and opportunity to come together and be more than anyone of us can be individually.
2. The YWCA Tulsa is on a mission to eliminate racism and empower women. As a widely known organization throughout our city, Tulsa Area United Way is uniquely positioned to build on its role as an equitable organization. Could you help us connect our readers to some of the forthcoming initiatives happening around Tulsa to address existing inequities?
I was laughing today that when I became a Corporate Manager of Diversity in 2003, I didn’t know anyone locally who was doing that work. Today, so many organizations are having the hard conversations and bringing forward great ideas to create an inclusive culture in our city where diversity can thrive.
We at Tulsa Area United Way (TAUW) are so excited to be partnering with Fulton Street Books and Coffee, the 1921 Race Massacre Commission, and the YWCA on the #BuyBlackTulsa initiative. The brainchild of Fulton Street founder, #BuyBlackTulsa kicked off during Black History month to encourage people from all over the community to seek out and shop from businesses owned by Black Tulsans. Greenwood Rising will share the story of the strong entrepreneurial spirit 100 years ago. But that spirit is alive and well today, and all Tulsans can support the economic development of Black entrepreneurs today. The YWCA is creating a directory of businesses. TAUW is leveraging the partnerships we have with 1000 companies and 30,000 donors to get the word out. All this will culminate in a great community day of shopping and fun on March 27th. And that is only one example!
I’m also part of groups of funders who have taken a serious look at the organizations we fund, and asking how our own grant-making can continue to address inequities. I’m so honored to raise funds during the United Way campaign to support 59 nonprofit organizations, like YWCA, who are each doing their part, whether that is fighting racism like the YWCA, assisting our senior citizens with the vaccine efforts like Life Senior Services, or advocating for people with disabilities like the Arc. In each of our organizations, we truly must acknowledge the inequities based on hundreds of years of sexism, racism, and other injustices and then ask ourselves with sincere reverence, “what are we going to do to right those wrongs, to improve lives and strengthen communities?” The great news is that the possibilities are endless and energizing!