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By Sondia Bell, a former City of Tulsa employee, a mom and daughter of Black Wall Street   

An educated Black woman has to obtain two degrees to get an interview for a position within the IT Department at the City of Tulsa; that’s what I did exactly. I earned multiple degrees in Business Administration, a minor in Employment Law, and a master’s degree in Entrepreneurial Studies. 

I somehow slipped through the gate and entered the White male-dominated IT world at the City of Tulsa. 

If you know anything about Tulsa, you know that it operates on a “good ‘ole boys’ system.” That’s to say: If you are a White male, regardless of your educational attainment, you have a better chance of economic and employment upward mobility than those who are non-White males. 

A prime example would be the deputization of White rioters by Tulsa police officers during the 1921 Race massacre of my community — Greenwood.

It saddens me to say that nothing has changed in this city since that dreadful day 100 years ago. 

White men are still deputized by the city and strategically placed into positions they are not qualified for, which I believe is meant to protect their white fragility.

There are no managers of color working for the IT Department.  The IT department head manager for the City of Tulsa–who I report to–makes $100,203 per year while only holding a high school diploma.

His salary is $23,203 more than what I, a three degreed Black woman, makes. 

As the mother of a child with a disability, working for the City of Tulsa has been challenging. 

The IT Administration possesses the necessary tools to work from home. And, the City of Tulsa allows some employees to work from home within the IT department. I was encouraged to apply for telecommuting, which allows me the freedom to work from home and be with my special needs son.   

I was told by an IT employee, “It’s super easy to apply to work from home.” Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about my experience. 

Since Covid, the City Council has encouraged all employees to work from home, if applicable. However, that has not been the case for City IT employees. 

Two of our department’s staff members were diagnosed with Covid. None of the employees were notified or allowed to quarantine like other departments.

Chris Berg, the manager of the IT department, treats the White staff differently than he treats other employees of color and me.

Though aware of my special needs son, he denied my request to work from home while maintaining his work from home status.

At times my work environment is reminiscent of the 1960s, as I have sometimes been denied access to the nearest restroom from my workspace.

Also skewed are promotions awarded to me versus my White female counterpart, whom I have more degrees than. While she received a $32,843 raise, mine was significantly less, coming in at $8,000.

I should note that my work ethic has never come under fire. I worked hard to earn my degrees, and I work even harder for the City of Tulsa.

All disciplinary actions enforced by Chris Berg and the City of Tulsa have seemingly been made to restrict my freedom of movement, policing where I’m allowed to go and at what time I’m allowed to do it. 

I was denied the freedom to work from home to assist my special needs child if he should need me and denied the freedom to work at home during a global pandemic, while Chris permitted others the luxury. 

One can only speculate that Chris’ and the city’s decision is rooted in racist ideas about Black people. That we are lazy, not responsible, and shouldn’t be trusted.  And, therefore, should be supervised at all times to ensure high work performance. 

The Black Wall Street Times is a news publication located in Tulsa, Okla. and Atlanta, Ga. At The BWSTimes, we focus on elevating the stories of our beloved Greenwood community, elevating the stories of...

10 replies on “Sondia Bell describes the City of Tulsa’s “good ole boys’ system”.”

  1. The City of Tulsa was the same when I worked there. Not only did they nickel and dimed us on raises; I finally resigned because of sexual harassment. I worked there for eleven years in Protective Inspection.

  2. Great article! I hate that you are going through this Sis but I love the fact that you’re standing up for what is right by exposing this unjust system. Keep shining your light and expose those people that choose to do evil.

    “Darkness cannot drive out darkness only light can do that.” MLK Jr.

  3. The white leaders of Tulsa keep pushing healing, and how we don’t need to speak of the horrors of the past, just bring us together. While all the time grinding black men and women down daily TODAY and everyday. The Centennial Commission is letting the local leadership off way to easily. This “just get along” only works one way, that much is obvious from Sondia’s story. Demand real change.

  4. Thank you for bringing this situation to light very disappointing that you were unable to work from home during the worst pandemic ever

  5. My daughter was denied the opportunity to work from home while others in her work group are still enjoying their work from home status. She is not a woman of color, but was told her job responsibilities could only be completed on site. Is this perhaps the same for Ms. Bell?

    1. No, it’s not the same. Ms. Bell’s work can be completed from anywhere there’s internet service. What’s also interesting is that there’s a person that’s in a different state working for the City of Tulsa and the IT department. ANOTHER STATE!


    1. I’m so glad that you’re sharing your story. It’s like a slap in the face to have them talk about one community yet the 2020 you’re fighting to use the restroom, same restroom a white woman can freely use.

      There needs to be a change all through the City of Tulsa. From employment there to contracting we need change. Discrimination has been allowed far too long.

      Thanks for sharing this story.

  7. It’s the thought of white men feeling superior and having the ability to abuse their authority because they lack empathy and sympathy. He couldn’t care less about your family needing you at home. My thought is where there’s a will, there’s a way to make it happen. They fear us in more than one way young lady. I’m proud of you.

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