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Opinion By Nehemiah Frank
As city councilors prepare to vote on the Healthy Neighborhood’s Overlay on Wednesday the lingering question is: Which city councilors will choose to ignore the voices of their Black neighbors who live in north Tulsa?
Yes! We know African Americans are not the only constituents living on the north side of the city; however, they are the majority. Some may wonder why I bring this up again; it’s because the City of Tulsa has a history of treating its African-American constituents as second-class citizens. The proof of my stated claim has been public since last Wednesday because the Resilience Team published Tulsa’s first Equality Indicators Report.
I have heard rumors that Ann America plans to run for Tulsa mayor, someday. Needless to say, I can assure you, ‘Mrs. America’ will not get the Black vote — even if she runs as a Democrat. I, as a same gender loving (aka “gay”) Black man, would vote for a Republican before I’d cast a vote for a person who honestly believes the number of parks in south Tulsa is a problem when the city’s predominately black side of town — an economically disenfranchised community — boasts more parks.
That’s like crying…
…that all lives matter, too or what the picture above illustrates.
If a city counselor can send his or her child to Booker T. Washington High School, a historically Black institution that remains on the Black side of town, one would hope that he or she could also vote in favor of the people who live in that community. If not, the individual is merely exploiting the remaining and limited resources of an already blighted community.
Moreover, a no vote from ‘America’ and the rest of the city Councilors will echo the historical narrative that continues to divide this city and country: white supremacy.
I know this ‘read’ may appear a little harsh, but white capitalists are literally sucking the “vibranium” out of North Tulsa — our Black dollars. Why is this important? When the Black dollar leaves the community, our economic power disintegrates.
Furthermore, the argument that Blacks are voting with their dollars by spending their money at the new Dollar General store is weak. By reason, formally emancipated people returned to their former slave masters after the Civil War because they had no other options. It was ‘work for your former slave master, for little to nothing for room and board, or starve to death.’
“Hundreds of thousands of slaves freed during the American civil war died from disease and hunger after being liberated” according to historian Jim Downs.
My prediction is our city counselors who work for — or are the friends with — the developers will vote against the Healthy Neighborhood’s Overlay, and that includes Ben Kimbo and Phil Lakin, Jr.
Next, I suspect Karen Gilbert will vote against the Overlay because she’s running for a House seat and doesn’t want to appear antibusiness, but would rather appear anti-Black Tulsa (that is anti healthy food options for the city’s Black community so she can get elected) just to earn the title as a State Representative.
I hope my predictions are wrong, so we can support one another’s communities.
I hope that Tulsa counselors will place their hearts before their self-interest.
I hope the city counselors vote in favor of the healthy neighborhoods overlay and demonstrate understanding and a desire to close the life expectancy gap in the city — where Black Tulsans live a decade less than White Tulsans.
A yes vote would bridge and close the trust gap between Black Tulsa and the city; a no vote would widen it.
You may be asking yourself these controversial questions:
Why does he (Nehemiah Frank) always put race into the mix?
Is he obsessed with race and is he a race baiter?
Is he going to pull the race card at Wednesday’s City Council?
My answer is:
Hell, yes! I’ll be pulling the ‘race card’ at this Wednesday’s City Council meeting. And to be honest, I never thought about race until I moved back to Tulsa.
The answer is yes because when you’re born Black in America and are both the witness and the victim of inequality coupled with sociological and scientific data that elevate the numbers indicating you and your people have consistently been disenfranchised and treated as second-class citizens, you can’t help but talk about race. It’s a fundamental part of the equation.
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.