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By Orisabiyi Williams, Chair of the Greater Tulsa African American Affairs Commission 

TULSA, Okla. – The Tulsa Development Authority approved the building of a Dollar General store by the Rupe Helmer Group at 750 E. Pine St. between Pine Street Christian Church and Carver Middle School in January. North Tulsa is inundated with Family Dollar Stores and Dollar General Stores, and the community is taking a stand by protesting the development near East Pine Street and North Peoria Avenue.

The community worked to prevent the group from building another Dollar General last year down the street from where it has been approved to be built now. In an effort to prevent similar community activism, the authority did not communicate with the community about the new development plans. The authority’s agenda item appeared to mask the purpose of the potentially contentious vote by listing the item as “The Rupe Helmer Group” instead of “Dollar General.”  The agenda item doesn’t even name “Dollar General”:

Discussion, consideration and vote approving a Resolution authorizing entering into a Redevelopment Agreement with Rupe Helmer Group Inc., for the sale and redevelopment of TDA land located at 750 East Pine Street, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

City Councilor Vanessa Hall Harper attended the authority’s January meeting and only learned about the Dollar General development when someone questioned that agenda item. Harper spoke out against it, but the TDA board voted to approve. Only one board member, Carl Bracy, voted “No.”

A 2015 life expectancy analysis, “Narrowing the Gap,” shows that North Tulsans’ life expectancy is significantly lower than their South Tulsan counterparts. People that live in North Tulsa have a life expectancy of 67, while people who live in South Tulsa have a life expectancy of 81.  The analysis from the Tulsa Health Department, partnering with the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa and the George Kaiser Family Foundation showed that the difference, or gap, has narrowed from 14 to 10.5 years. What factors contribute to the difference in quality of life between North Tulsa and South Tulsa?

South Tulsa has many easily accessible stores that offer a wide variety of quality fresh food such as meat, fruit, and vegetables, including organic options. Dollar Generals or Family Dollars are difficult to find in South Tulsa. North Tulsa has a Family Dollar and Dollar General store on what feels like every corner and no access to healthy foods.

Residents who own cars can drive to South Tulsa for quality foods. But for many, that is not feasible, and Family Dollar and Dollar General have become their only option to buy food.

These stores are nothing more than processed food sanctuaries, and a 2015 HealthyStuff study found that 81% of products in Dollar General, Family Dollar, and Dollar Tree stores are made with hazardous chemicals. Testing was performed on 164 products from these three stores and it concluded that 133 of the 164 products contained hazardous chemicals in levels high enough to cause serious health effects.

HealthyStuff “tested 1,000?s (sic) of products from dozens of retailers over the last ten years. And on average the dollar store products are some of the poorest performing from a chemical hazard perspective,” according to Jeff Gearhart, HealthyStuff Research Director. He is “particularly concerned about the comparatively high percentage of products containing hazardous plasticizers.”

Phthalates, polyvinyl chloride plastic (PVC), and lead were all found in the tested products, and these chemicals are known to cause birth defects, asthma, learning disabilities, cancer, diabetes, and other serious health conditions.

Chief Egunwale Fagbenro Amusan, who participated in the protest Saturday with about two dozen other residents, said, “No wonder why we have clinics on every corner.”

Tulsans have no problem seeing the difference between the zip codes on the north and south side of the city. This knowledge should serve as a call to action for everyone in Tulsa no matter their race or socioeconomic status. Most parents in North Tulsa have to worry about keeping their children safe from gang violence, strangers, and police brutality, but knowing what we know now, Dollar General and Family Dollar must be added to the list of dangers.

Harper is asking residents to call and send letters to the Rupe Helmer Group and to the Tulsa Development Authority asking them not to build the proposed Dollar General Store, but to approve and encourage developments that will create healthy economic growth for the community.

Sign the petition and follow the City Councilor Harper’s Facebook page to get involved. Let’s all do our part!

Rupe Helmer Group can be contacted at 918-749-1880, 5800 E. Skelly Dr. Ste. 1200 Tulsa, OK 74135.

Tulsa Development Authority can be contacted at 918-592-4944, 1216 N. Lansing Ave. Ste. D, Tulsa OK 74106.

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3 replies on “Dollar Store Discounts North Tulsans’ Health”

  1. This is so true. I am doing a research project on food desert everything that you stated and this report is definitely true it is definitely a race and class issue. And your right my mom just moved to Broken Arrow from North Tulsa about three months ago and she still can’t find a Family Dollar that’s how rare they are on the White side of town. They believe that Family Dollar and Dollar General is all that black folks can afford they feel it is all that we deserve and it’s not just Oklahoma or Tulsa during my research I’m finding out that this is an epidemic in the minority Community the Black and Latino community this is happening in Detroit Los Angeles every major city that you can think of that’s way bigger than Tulsa this is happening. That’s why the African American community residents are dying from diabetes heart disease at a faster rate than their white counterparts it’s definitely true and very accurate it is definitely stemmed from racism it is definitely still from classism. because why should why does the black side of town so to speak get dirty and disgusting and nasty food and product. but us as a community we’re going to have to begin to stand up like we’re doing now and fight back.

  2. I am doing a research paper for my Sociology class on food deserts and so far online research everything in this article is a hundred percent accurate. But this issue is not just a Tulsa Oklahoma issue this is happening in every major city on the planet and the minority community. It’s like they don’t think that Minority people deserve fresh fruit fresh produce they don’t believe that we deserve to live healthy like our white counterparts. But definitely race plays a huge part in this. My mom has lived in North Tulsa for about 30 years and she just recently moved to Broken Arrow and she said she can’t even find a Family Dollar she’ll even know where it’s at that’s how rare dollar stores are in South Tulsa are on the White side of town because they’re not building them there it’s like they think that’s all that week that we deserved as a minority is rotten dirty unhealthy food and it’s not even just the brand of the store because I can go to Warehouse Market and Broken Arrow and the floors so clean you could eat off the floor versus the one in North Tulsa are the one on 3rd and Lewis were it’s nasty it smells bad the food is rotting but the warehouse market does in South Tulsa and Broken Arrow it’s like immaculate the food is fresh the meats fresh you know that’s a problem. But us as a community we going to have to band together and do something about what’s going on because nothing is going to be handed to us we can no longer sit back and be lazy and just say always me I just accept what they’re giving me that’s all that I feel like I deserve anyway so once we get our self-esteem that as a people and feel like we deserve more then we will begin to put our foot down and stop accepting this foolishness. because this is complete foolishness. If they build a Dollar General by Carver Middle School that’s going to be for dollar stores on one block you already have a Family Dollar on MLK and Pine then they’re trying to build another Family Dollar up the street by McDonald’s on Pine then you go up the street from there does the Family Dollar on Springdale Shopping Center so that’s like for Family Dollars on one block that is insanity but that’s all that they think that we deserve is dollar stores they don’t think that we can afford anything else. And that’s another thing that I have learned from my research is that the people that build these stores are the people that Only Stores Only build knife stores in the community where they feel like they will prosper so they’re not going to build a Sprouts or a Reasors or a Whole Foods in North Tulsa because for the majority of North Tulsa probably wouldn’t be able to afford the things that’s in those stores and the store probably will have to close so I do understand that part of it.

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