Chris Polansky

News Anchor & Reporter

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.

 

His most recent stint at an NPR member station was as a general assignment reporter at Utah Public Radio in Logan, Utah, in 2019. His stories have also appeared in/on Gothamist / WNYC, NPR's Weekend Edition, and the Brooklyn Eagle.

 

Chris is a New Jersey native and perpetually disappointed Mets fan who spent just about ten years in New York City before coming to Tulsa. He likes hiking and camping with his dog, Trout Fishing in America. He’s also a proud alumnus of Bike & Build, an affordable housing nonprofit with which he’s bicycled coast-to-coast twice: from Portland, Maine, to Santa Barbara (2014), and from Nags Head, North Carolina, to San Diego (2016). Both trips crossed Oklahoma. 

Ways to Connect

John Hope Franklin National Symposium

One of the preeminent scholars of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre said Thursday that reparations for survivors and descendants are undeniably necessary.

"The fact of the matter is, without a doubt, the three remaining survivors of the massacre and the descendants of any and all survivors of the massacre deserve some form of financial restitution for what happened to them and their family in 1921," historian Scott Ellsworth said near the end of an address given as part of the John Hope Franklin National Symposium.

Cherokee Nation

The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council on Thursday evening approved a spending proposal from Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. that will use part of the Tribe's $1.8 billion in funding under President Biden's American Rescue Plan COVID-19 relief package to provide direct payments of $2,000 to Cherokee citizens, regardless of residency or income.

Friday's top stories:

• The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission's main event -- Monday's "Remember + Rise" at ONEOK Field featuring performer John Legend and activist Stacey Abrams -- has been cancelled. 

• Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) will oppose an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Cherokee Nation/Osiyo TV

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Wednesday to express support for a piece of language preservation legislation named for the late Cherokee linguist Durbin Feeling.

Sen. James Lankford

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said Wednesday evening that he will vote against the House-backed formation of an independent, bipartisan commission to examine the Jan. 6 pro-Trump insurrection. 

In a Facebook Live video, Lankford said the proposal passed with bipartisan support in the House is too "political."

Thursday's top stories:

• The White House released new details about President Biden's trip to Tulsa on Tuesday, saying he will visit with the living Tulsa Race Massacre survivors and tour the Greenwood Cultural Center.

• Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter abruptly announced his resignation, citing "personal matters," reportedly related to an extramarital affair.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Tulsa is preparing for its second consecutive June featuring thousands of visitors, demonstrations and a visit from the President of the United States, and the head of the city's police force said Wednesday they're better prepared from having experienced it last year.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum says he is not spending much time thinking about the international media coverage of the upcoming Tulsa Race Massacre centennial events, instead focusing on what the anniversary means for Tulsans.

"I think about this event like when you're mourning as a family when you have the death of a loved one," Bynum said in a video message released Tuesday by City Hall. "You're really just concerned about your family and your friends and your neighbors. What people on the periphery have to say about it is of less importance."

Wednesday's top stories:

• President Joe Biden will travel to Tulsa on Tuesday to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

• Reparations advocates have launched a hotline for descendants of massacre survivors to call and tell their families' stories, with hopes that the international attention on Tulsa will lead to more descendants reaching out as groups attempt to strengthen the case for restitution.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

With mounting global attention on Tulsa and the myriad events planned to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, reparations advocates have launched a phone hotline for descendants of massacre survivors and victims to call and tell their stories.

"I know there's thousands and thousands of more descendants across the world and across the nation," said DJ Mercer, descendant coordinator at the Justice For Greenwood Foundation, which opened the hotline last week.

The White House

President Joe Biden will travel to Tulsa next Tuesday, June 1, to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, the White House announced.

Details on the visit were not immediately available, the White House said.

"We are grateful that President Biden will join in the centennial commemoration of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre," Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said in a statement. "His visit honors our neighbors who were killed in this city’s worst moment and the work being done to build a better Tulsa for future generations.”

Tulsa Health Department

The Tulsa Health Department announced Monday a new text message campaign targeting Tulsa County residents who have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19.

"Text message reminders are proven effective for increasing vaccination uptake, and we are looking for creative ways to generate awareness and reach herd immunity,” THD Executive Director Dr. Bruce Dart said in a statement. “We expect that for those who are open to getting vaccinated but haven’t followed through, these types of reminders will be an effective nudge toward vaccination."

Tuesday's top stories:

• Gov. Kevin Stitt signed legislation Monday approving the $9 billion state budget.

• As remembrances and events begin in recognition of the centennial anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, researchers and archaeologists are preparing to begin exhuming a mass grave thought to contain victims of the attack.

Rep. Stephanie Bice

The only member of the all-Republican Oklahoma Congressional delegation to vote in favor of an independent, bipartisan commission into the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection carried out by supporters of Donald Trump said Friday that the former president should not be the focus of the probe.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

With dignitaries, massacre survivors, international media and others converging on Tulsa for the May 31 centennial anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, researchers and city officials are preparing for more than just remembrances.

The city on Monday released new details regarding the exhumation of remains discovered last year in a mass grave in Oaklawn Cemetery.

Monday's top stories:

• The world's eyes are on Tulsa as the centennial anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre looms.

• Tulsa hosted thousands from around the world for an Ironman competition this weekend.

• Oklahoma state lawmakers have given up on a push to block Gov. Kevin Stitt from implementing his plan to outsource Medicaid expansion to for-profit managed care companies.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Thousands of Oklahoma families who receive benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, will not have their pandemic emergency allotments cut off on June 30 as previously announced, state and federal officials said Friday. 

Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.) announced in a news release that her office had worked in partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to secure the extension.

Friday's top stories:

• The city of Tulsa is continuing to grapple with the effects of the ransomware attack on city systems that began earlier this month. The police department says the attack means officers are not currently using their body and dashboard cameras.

• The Oklahoma Senate approved tax cuts for individuals and corporations, sending the legislation to Gov. Kevin Stitt's desk.

Rep. Kevin Hern

Oklahoma Republican Rep. Kevin Hern was the only member of the state's all-GOP delegation to oppose new legislation signed into law by President Biden on Thursday that seeks to address an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans.

The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act passed the House 364-62 on Tuesday, with all votes in opposition coming from Republicans.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) told a conservative group on Wednesday that he believes there are two main threats to the American electoral system: Democrats pushing to move from the Electoral College to a national popular vote in presidential races; and Republicans who are delegitimizing the Constitution by objecting to Electoral College results.

Tulsa Health Department

The Tulsa Health Department announced Wednesday afternoon that 1,150 patients who received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine this month through the department were given doses that were kept frozen for too long, resulting in the need for those patients to be revaccinated for full protection.

Thursday's top stories:

• The three known living survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre testified before a Congressional subcommittee Wednesday, calling for reparations that have never been paid by the city of Tulsa, Tulsa County, the state of Oklahoma and other bodies.

• Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.) was the only member of the state's Congressional delegation to vote in favor of establishing a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 pro-Trump attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Rep. Stephanie Bice

Shortly after the deadly Jan. 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol carried out by supporters of then-President Donald Trump eager to use violence to keep him in power despite his election loss, freshman Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.) still joined with the other four members of the delegation in voting to reject the election's legitimate results.

On Wednesday, Bice bucked Republican leadership and was the sole member of the Oklahoma delegation to vote in favor of a bipartisan Congressional commission to investigate the insurrection.

U.S. House of Representatives

The three known living survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre testified before a Congressional subcommittee Wednesday, less than two weeks before the 100th anniversary of the racist attack. 

Viola Fletcher, 107, and her brother, Hughes Van Ellis, 100, appeared before the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in person at the U.S. Capitol. Lessie Benningfield "Mother" Randle, 106, appeared via videoconference.

Wednesday's top stories:

• Republican House lawmakers on Tuesday advanced key provisions of the proposed state budget.

• Voting rights activist Stacey Abrams was announced as the keynote speaker for the May 31 "Remember & Rise" event at ONEOK Field, honoring 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre survivors, victims and their descendants.

The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission announced Wednesday morning that voting rights advocate, politician and author Stacey Abrams will be the keynote speaker at its May 31 "Remember & Rise" event at ONEOK Field.

A leading state COVID-19 expert said Tuesday that a coronavirus strain identified in a cluster of infections in Cleveland County last week is "worth watching," but statewide trends continue to be headed in the right direction.

"What do we know about this particular variant?" said Dr. Dale Bratzler, chief COVID officer at OU Health, on a Tuesday press briefing hosted by the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition, referring to the B.1.617.2 variant. 

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Addressing a meeting of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Graves Investigation Public Oversight Committee held virtually Monday afternoon, a retired Tulsa County presiding judge said he thought it was unlikely that criminal charges could be brought against governmental entity like the city of Tulsa, Tulsa County or the state of Oklahoma -- though civil cases may succeed.

Tuesday's top stories:

• Gov. Kevin Stitt is opting out of allowing Oklahomans to receive federal enhanced unemployment benefits.

• Tulsa Transit and the Tulsa Health Department are partnering on an initiative to incentivize COVID-19 vaccinations with free transit passes.

Tulsa Parks

Tulsa Parks is hosting a series of workshops meant to engage community members in the development of recreation program pricing.

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