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Charles Wilkes, a Greenwood son, community organizer and consultant is seeking to represent Tulsa residents in the Oklahoma State Legislature.
Wilkes, a descendant of Tulsa Race Massacre survivors, a Cherokee Nation citizen, and local leader seeks to replace outgoing state Rep. Monroe Nichols in the racially diverse and Democratic-leaning House District 72.
Rep. Nichols recently announced his intention to run for Mayor of Tulsa, opening the door for new faces to take his place. In an interview with The Black Wall St. Times, 30-year-old Wilkes said he wants to continue the work to create a better future for the next generation.
“I’ve been a servant in this community since I was a teenager,” Wilkes said. With experience in community organizing, serving on city boards and government consulting, Wilkes says becoming a state Representative represents just another layer of servanthood.
He currently sits on the Housing and Urban Development committee and the Sales Tax Overview committee for the City of Tulsa, along with volunteer work in the community.
“I’ve been molded around it, and I’ve chosen it as my life’s work,” Wilkes told The Black Wall St. Times.
Charles Wilkes running to represent a diverse district
House District 72 spans from parts of downtown Tulsa to much of Northeast Tulsa and parts of Owasso. The urban and rural district encompasses a mostly young and racially diverse population. The democratic-leaning district didn’t have a Republican challenger in the last cycle.
Yet Wilkes said he believes his experience enables him to work well across the aisle if elected.
“Perspective and point of view is everything. We can look at the same picture and interpret different ways. All of those things culminate what we bring to the table,” Wilkes said. “My value is having been in North Tulsa, a descendant, and fighting for Greenwood, as well as being a Cherokee Freedmen. I’ve always had to deal with some sort of trauma or past experience we are looking to heal from.”
He’s running to improve the social determinants of health that disproportionaley impact quality of life for people in the district. For instance, city data shows North Tulsans face an 11-year life expectancy gap compared to south Tulsa.
“It is past time to have more opportunities to gain trades and skills that lead to those better jobs. It is past time for us to raise the minimum wage to a living wage in Oklahoma. Too many families struggle with paying all their bills on time and we must acknowledge that we are keeping too many Oklahomans in difficult situations,” Charles Wilkes stated.
Stepping up to the plate
Aside from improving quality of life, Wilkes said he wants to invest in infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, accessbile neighborhoods, education, health and economic development.
Currently, he only faces one challenger, Michelle McCane. She’s a passionate educator and Library Media Specialist at McClain High School, a historically Black school in North Tulsa.
Monday night, I spoke at the Tulsa Public Schools board meeting to thank Board Members Woolley, Croissant, J. Marshall, Lamkin, and D. Marshall for signing a resolution calling for the Oklahoma State Board of Education to maintain Tulsa Public Schools’ accreditation,” McCane posted to Facebook as the state superintendent continues his attacks on Tulsa’s public school system.
“I’m running for HD72 because of my passion for the community. Growing up, raising my children, and teaching in the district has given me the personal and professional background to understand the needs of the kind hard-working people of our community,” McCane, who announced her candidacy before anyone else, states on her campaign website.
Meanwhile, Charles Wilkes said he’s focused on making a lasting impact for future generations. If elected, he would become the second current representative, along with Rep. Regina Goodwin, who descends from survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre.
“What can we do that’s gonna matter 20 or 30 years from now? And that’s all I care about,” he told the Black Wall St. Times. “I have put blood, sweat and tears in this district, and I believe I have the network and the movement to help make things happen in this district and for all of us in Oklahoma.
To learn more about his campaign, visit his website.