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Greater Tulsa Area African-American Affairs Commission Holds First Meeting

Matt Trotter

The Greater Tulsa Area African-American Affairs Commission met for the first time on Friday.

Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper led the charge for the commission, which was formalized in February, just three months after she was elected. Hall-Harper said the commission must be progressive and unapologetic in its work for black Tulsans.

One of the issues it will tackle as a policy advisory group is law enforcement.

"Working together to build and establish a relationship of trust with our police department, assisting in all ways that we can to employ community policing practices, working with the goals and objectives that have been set through the mayor and his administration," Hall-Harper said.

Hall-Harper said the Hispanic affairs commission successfully pushed for more Spanish-speaking officers in their communities, so those sorts of requests are not unreasonable.

Educational equity is another issue the commission might tackle, as Hall-Harper noted public schools rated as "failing" are disproportionately in black communities.

"That's just a couple, but I'm sure there will be plenty of ideas that surface of how we can improve the quality of life for African-Americans in Tulsa," Hall-Harper said.

Forming a commission to help a particular group in the Tulsa area is nothing new.

"The Hispanic affairs commission has been in existence for over 40 years. The Indian affairs commission has been in existence for over 27 years. The status of women commission has been in existence well over 30 years," Hall-Harper said. "This commission is not unique, it's just that we've never had an African-American affairs commission."

Speaking to the commission, Hall-Harper said they must unify and organize African-Americans in Tulsa, and quoted Frederick Douglass, saying, “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”