Government

Charles Wilkes: A Lesson in Leadership

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By Nehemiah Frank

Charles Wilkes is a native Tulsan, born on May 22, 1993, who graduated from McLain High School in 2011. Wilkes’ first encounter with politics was in 2004, when he was 11, watching a presidential debate between Republican candidate, then-Texas Governor, George W. Bush, and Democratic candidate, then-Massachusetts Senator, John Kerry, which sparked his interest in the world of politics. Thirteen years later, this past weekend Wilkes attended the Democratic Regional Convention in Oklahoma City.

The Black Wall Street Times asked him why he’s chosen to be civically engaged, and he told us, “I offer an alternative approach and strategy to help implement change in my community. I have no other choice. If I’m not making a change, I see no purpose for life. My vision is for Tulsa to acknowledge the fact that North Tulsa has been disenfranchised and downtrodden.”

His Vision for Greenwood and North Tulsa

“I plan to help take the steps toward revitalizing and empowering our people to know that their voices matter and their votes cumulatively matter. Once that is achieved, the possibilities are endless.”

He’s planning to run for office to strengthen his community economically, which he hopes will inspire other marginalized communities.

Wilkes already has a growing track record strengthening his community economically. He was one of the organizers of the 2017 Black Economic Expo in Tulsa, Okla. Black business owners from across the country, joined with local black business owners to exhibit some of the Black Community’s culture, including fashion and music The expo also highlighted business opportunities for companies of all sizes, which is a notable accomplishment since there hasn’t been a similar event in Tulsa for over 15 years.

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Wilkes says his mother, Jackie Zeigler, approached him with the idea for the Black Economic Expo. Zeigler has been a business owner for years and laid a solid foundation for her son to ensure that he would be involved in empowering the community. This foundation assured that he would gain the abilities and skills that have made him into the man that he is today.

Wilkes told us, “When she brought this idea to me, I was nervous. It’s a big risk and undertaking to do this type of initiative. But once I saw the potential impact it could have on the community and economic development, especially in North Tulsa, I was sold and said let’s do it. So here we are.”

Next year Wilkes and his family’s foundation are planning a bigger Black Economic Expo, this time in June, which is a symbolic month for black Tulsans because the 1921 Greenwood Massacre, often incorrectly referred to as The Tulsa Race Riots, occurred in June.

His Global Perspective

“Make[ing] sure that our state party advocates [to] empower ALL of our people, [whatever] race, age, sexual orientation or preference.”

Wilkes is now the Chapter Chair of The New Young Democrats of Oklahoma.

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