Since the launch of Resilient Tulsa in June 2018, it has helped bring awareness of what it means to be a resilient city and has created opportunities for many Tulsans to be involved in the work of creating a more equitable city. The actions outlined in the Resilient Tulsa Strategy, along with the release of the Equality Indicators report, have spurred open and honest dialogue among all Tulsans about the city we want to create. This update highlights a few of the 41 actions Tulsans discussed and prescribed for building a more equitable and resilient community. The work is underway and will continue for many years.
The City of Tulsa is part of a global network of cities practicing urban resilience. Urban resilience is defined as the capacity of individuals, communities, organizations, businesses and systems to survive, adapt and thrive in the face of chronic stresses or acute shocks. It is what makes cities bounce back and become even stronger after events or shocks like natural or man-made disasters, and what makes communities able to tackle challenges or chronic stressors like homelessness and poverty through system-level changes. Tulsa is implementing its resilience strategy with a racial equity lens. Tulsa is one of several cities in the resilience network that is ‘acknowledging history, healing from the trauma it has caused, and advancing social justice.’
Tulsa has a checkered history filled with both successes and failures. Largely due to the history of systemic racism, many disparate outcomes such home-ownership, life expectancy, poverty and educational attainment are inextricably linked and require a system-level approach to address.
The Resilient Tulsa strategy outlines four visions to make our city a place of equity and opportunity for all Tulsans. The 41 actions outlined in the strategy include programs and events that support residents and organizations in their everyday day lives and others include policies or practice changes that address structural issues within systems of government, institutions or departments that contribute to inequities.
One year into the strategy’s implementation, the City of Tulsa government, private and public sector partners, arts organizations, community organizers, and residents have engaged in a movement to make Tulsa a resilient and equitable city for all. Many of these efforts began before the launch of the strategy and many more are currently happening under a resilience framework to advance initiatives. The actions in the strategy are being led by the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Equity, city departments and offices, and community partners. There also many efforts that while not listed as actions in the strategy, are contributing to resilience and racial equity. Of the 41 actions outlined in the Resilient Tulsa strategy, 29 are completed, ongoing, or in progress, and 13 are still in the planning phase. Below are highlights of work that has taken place over the last year.
A resilient approach to support Tulsans involved with the justice system
A resilient city means individuals and organizations can survive, adapt, thrive, and grow despite experiencing adverse events or chronic stresses like incarceration. As part of Resilient Tulsa’s actions to support justice-involved Tulsans, the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Equity (MORE) has convened representatives like second chance employers, non-profit staff, City agency staff, and formerly incarcerated Tulsans to diagnose the challenges of maneuvering and finding services to support those involved with the justice system, as well as explore the policies and programs that could make a positive difference for individuals and communities impacted by over-incarceration.
The overall aim of Resilient Tulsa’s actions to support justice-involved Tulsans are to: 1) remove barriers to employment and destigmatize Tulsans involved with the justice system, 2) successfully implement Ban the Box to remove the criminal history question on job applications, and 3) support more businesses and employers to implement practices to remove barriers to hire and retain justice-involved Tulsans.
Work to date:
A Resilient Tulsa welcomes and includes all new residents to the city of Tulsa.
The New Tulsans Initiative is a commitment to becoming a world class welcoming city through the social inclusion of all immigrants. As part of this initiative, the City has partnered with local organizations to increase access to civic engagement and leadership opportunities for immigrants, expanded educational supports for immigrant youth, provided legal support for naturalization, gave translation and interpretation assistance, and provided public safety resources. The City of Tulsa will continue to work on the goals outlined in the New Tulsans Welcoming Plan that promote prosperity.
Work to date:
Building resilience and social cohesion by engaging communities to come together in celebration of Tulsa
To celebrate Tulsa’s diversity and multiculturalism, and strengthen social cohesion across all communities, the City launched 918 Day in 2018 as an annual, citywide event held on Sept. 19. The days leading up to Sept. 19, as well as the week of, are marked by several events and activities hosted by the City and participating sponsors, including a citywide Scavenger Hunt, community events, discounts by local small businesses, and a 24-hour Tour of Tulsa by the Mayor.
Work to date:
Understanding and addressing implicit bias to strengthen policing and the provision of City services
The policies and practices that govern departments and organizations are important drivers of equity. Resilient cities acknowledge that implicit or unconscious bias is part of every person and system and work to address it to mitigate potential negative outcomes. The Tulsa Police Department and the City of Tulsa Human Resource Department are incorporating implicit bias training and awareness into their work. Currently, all Tulsa police officers receive implicit bias training as part of their mandatory training, and sessions continue to be held as part of every Police Academy.
Work to date:
Memorializing Black Wall Street to honor the resilience of the Greenwood community
In 2021, the City of Tulsa will reach an important date in its history - the 100th anniversary of the race massacre led by white residents that destroyed Greenwood, a vibrant Black community. The story of the Greenwood neighborhood is one that continues to be told and carried on through renewed awareness and education efforts by many community organizations, community scholars, and local leaders. Because of their efforts, open and honest dialogue about the legacy of disinvestment that Greenwood and other neighborhoods experienced because of the massacre and the racism that caused it, is allowing space for community driven solutions in the areas of economic development, health, and education. Memorializing Black Wall Street is one aspect of the necessary work to undo policies and programs that created areas of wealth for some and poverty for others in Tulsa. Through memorializing Black Wall Street, the City of Tulsa is honoring the history that is shared by all of Tulsans and is practicing resilience through self-reflection and a desire to learn from its past. The work of ensuring that all communities have economic opportunity, social cohesion, and healthy environments to live work and play is part of this work. Below are just a few highlights of the many efforts taking place to memorialize Black Wall Street.
Work to date:
Equity dinners: Building resilience through dialogue
On November 7, 2018, the City of Tulsa hosted 27 dinners at various restaurants throughout Tulsa. The dinners were modeled after efforts that have a long history in the faith community to bring different faith groups together in celebration of diversity and understanding. These dinners were a key part of building resilience by bringing diverse groups together to reflect on the past, learn from it and move forward together. Twenty-seven Tulsans volunteered to facilitate dialogues and more than 200 people participated. Many participants expressed a desire to continue the conversations beyond the dinners.
City resilience means there are resources, systems, and communications channels in place that are robust and flexible to withstand shocks like natural disasters. In the spring of 2019, the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Equity and the Working in Neighborhoods Department partnered with the St. Bernard’s project to host a series of workshops to prepare renters, homeowners, and small businesses in Tulsa for emergencies and disasters. In April, the City trained five community leaders to learn the curriculum for community training sessions. These trainers offered a total of five workshops that were attended by 78 residents.
In May of 2019, Tulsa experienced an earthquake, several tornados, and a 100-year flood that tested its emergency preparedness systems and processes. Thankfully during these events, there was no loss of life. Though damage to businesses and residential property in Tulsa city limits was minimal, Tulsa County reported a $6 million loss of property. These events highlighted the importance of preparing for a disaster and of the role the communications channels, infrastructure, and connectedness of a community can play in response and recovery efforts. For example, in the immediate aftermath, community residents throughout Tulsa County helped pick up debris, clean out flooded homes and donated to relief efforts for residents displaced/impacted by the flood.
Embedding resilience into all we do
Resilient Tulsa has been a catalyst for the City to embed resilience practice and principles in its projects, programs and systems. Since the launch of the strategy, the City of Tulsa has taken several actions to institutionalize resilience. By creating the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Equity, hiring the City’s first Housing Policy Director, embedding equity in the comprehensive plan, and creating more linguistically accessible documents on the City of Tulsa website, the City is laying a foundation to build equitable policies and programs.
In addition, the Equality Indicators report has helped elevate the importance of looking at disparities in outcome data. The report is a tool the City of Tulsa uses to understand and address racial inequities. By using data and engaging communities about the report, Tulsa is better able to find holistic solutions that can improve the quality of life for all Tulsans.
Another way the City of Tulsa is embedding resilience in all of its work is asking itself how projects, programs, and policy of practices exhibit these seven characteristics
The development of Resilient Tulsa has been possible because of Tulsans who are passionate and committed to making Tulsa a more equitable place. The City of Tulsa has made a commitment to continue this work and implement the resilience strategy in an integrated way across all departments and sectors.