By Nehemiah D. Frank
Tulsa, Okla. — Saturday was one of the best days in Tulsa history for thousands of city residents who traveled from across the district to attend the Expungement Expo at the 36th Street Event Center.
Vanessa Hall-Harper, the city councilwoman for District One, and Kristi Williams, Vice Chair of the African American Affairs Commission, placed equity back into the city by launching the biggest expungement expo in the city’s history.
The councilwoman explained, “We are lucky. We had to have a cooperative district attorney, court clerk, municipal court clerk, attorneys, and judges who were willing to donate their time for free.”
Residents from across the district began lining up as early as 5:30 AM to have their records expunged and regain their first-class citizen status.
What is an expungement?
An expungement is “a legal process whereby a petition is prepared to withdraw a guilty plea you have entered in the past and enter a new plea of not guilty. The court is then asked to dismiss your case. If the judge accepts your petition, he or she dismisses your case, and your criminal record will be amended to show a dismissal rather a conviction.”
“It feels like a cloud has lifted from over my head,” one attendee noted.
People could be heard shouting for joy as they exited the building with good news about their pardons.
One woman had her record expunged for throwing a tape dispenser decades ago; she had been charged with using it as deadly weapon.
One gentleman informed us that he had a criminal record that prevented him from getting hired for jobs that could have changed his living situation; jobs he qualified for, but was often overlooked for because he “checked the box,” which branded him as a felon. He told us his crime was committed 30 years ago during his youth, a mistake that haunted him for nearly three decades.
Over 1,000 citizens attended the expo. A line could be seen wrapped around the building and into the parking lot, which extended all the way to 36th Street.
Patrice James from Still She Rises – Tulsa, a group that’s “dedicated exclusively to the representation of mothers in the criminal justice system,” said this was one of the best days she’s witnessed in the city and was honored to be able to help so many people. “We should definitely do this event again and bring it to other parts of the city,” she added.
As if the day couldn’t get better, a social justice advocacy group — the Democratic Socialists of America — fixed break lights for free, closing the equity gap by reducing the chances a citizen is pulled over for a broken brake light. The group helps thousands of people across the nation who are disenfranchised.
“My hope, and prayer, for putting on this event is to improve the quality of life for the people living in my community and for all citizens across Tulsa County,” Vanessa Hall-Harper stated.
Nehemiah D. Frank is the Founder & Executive Editor of the Black Wall St. Times. Frank graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL in General Studies, and earned a Political Science degree from Oklahoma State University. He is highly involved in community activism, a middle school teacher at Sankofa School of the Performing Arts, a blogger for Education Post, and dedicates most of his time to empowering and uplifting his community of North Tulsa, home to America’s Black Wall Street. Frank is a 2017 Terence Crutcher Foundation Honoree and the Community Impact Award for the MET Cares Foundation and has been featured on NBC, Blavity, and Tulsa People. Frank recently gave a TEDx Talk at the University of Tulsa.