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Tulsa Run: Gajal Kumar takes on challenge of Tulsa Run while pregnant — again

It’s difficult enough to run a 15K race as it is, but how about trying it when you’re 30 weeks pregnant?

For Gajal Kumar, that will be her reality Saturday as she participates in the 42nd annual Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run — and it will actually be her third time running the race while very pregnant.

“I’m slower, for sure, and I take more walk breaks, but other than that, I’ve been running throughout my pregnancies with all three of the kids,” said Kumar, 34, whose son, Bodhi, was born in December 2016, and daughter Meena arrived last November, just weeks after the 2018 Tulsa Run. “I’ve talked with my OB and they have no issue with it as long as I stop if I just don’t feel good, and I try to just stay in tune with what my body feels.”

She reports that in the previous two races, there wasn’t much activity from the unborn child while running, as they were likely lulled to sleep, but afterwards, there was lots of kicking.

Kumar, who grew up on Long Island, New York, but has lived in Tulsa for five years, has plenty of medical advice at her fingertips, as she is a trauma surgeon at St. John Medical Center in Tulsa.

Despite her full schedule, she makes sure she finds time to train, even with two little ones to care for at home, sometimes still involving them with her running.

“I have a double jogging stroller that I’ll use with both of the kids right now,” said Kumar, whose only athletic outlet growing up was tae kwon do, before taking up running in 2007. “Other times, my husband (James Wegner) — he owns a restaurant at the Mother Road Market (‘Bodhi’s Bowl,’ named after their son) — if he’s not busy, then he’ll watch the kids, and I’ll go for a run. Or it’s usually later in the evening after the kids go to bed or early in the morning, if I can make myself get up before work.”

As busy as she is, she finds a lot of peace and calmness in running that sustains her.

“It’s kind of like my source of keeping me sane,” Kumar said. “It’s just ‘me time’ and kind of just drowns out everything that happens during the day, I just zone out and run. I like to have that time to just decompress from everything in the world that’s going on in my life.”

As challenging as it is to run a 15K (which equates to about 9.32 miles) while being pregnant, it pales in comparison to the three marathons she’s completed while expecting, including the Chicago Marathon last year at 33 weeks.

“I just ran Berlin a few weeks ago at 26 weeks,” Kumar said. “The pacing is just different — in the marathon, I started off much slower and I set my watch to do intervals. I ran for three minutes, walked for 30 seconds, ran for three minutes, straight from the beginning. For this, I’m just going to go by how I feel and if I get tired, take a walk break and if not, just keep running, and kind of go by feel, because it’s a shorter distance.”

Kumar has participated in the Tulsa Run every year since relocating to Tulsa in 2014.

“I did the Tulsa Run when I first moved here,” she said. “Everyone told me how great of a run it was. I just loved it. I love how it’s like almost like part of a Halloween-type thing, all the costumes and how much everybody gets into it, and there’s such good crowd support. I love that race.”

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Oklahoma County DA accused of improperly investigating leader of criminal justice reform effort

OKLAHOMA CITY — A former investigator for Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater alleges the prosecutor improperly went after the leader of the state’s criminal justice reform movement.

William Muller on Tuesday filed notice with Oklahoma County and the state that he intended to file a lawsuit for wrongful termination.

He alleged that he was fired for refusing to continue an illegal criminal investigation run by Prater against former House Speaker Kris Steele, Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Steele is executive director for Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform.

Muller is seeking $125,000. The notice gives the state a chance to settle the issue. If it goes to trial, Muller is seeking $125,000 plus punitive damages.

“These allegations are ridiculous,” Prater said Friday. “When I am lawfully able to do so, it will be clear to everyone as to why Mr. Muller was terminated. When I am lawfully able to discuss the reason Mr. Muller was terminated, it will be very clear what is going on here.

“I am denying any wrongdoing, period.”

Muller alleges Prater felt that criminal justice reform was “bull---t” and expressed great anger toward anything that mentioned reform.

During the fall of 2017, Prater, without an ongoing investigation, open file or any known probable cause, ordered Muller to obtain a multicounty grand jury subpoena from Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter’s office, according to the claim.

Muller was told to obtain the banking and financial records for the organization Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, according to the claim.

“The aim of Mr. Prater’s personal inquiry, as stated directly by Mr. Prater to Muller, was to find incriminating or compromising information pertaining to former Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives Kris Steele, one of the most visible leaders of the criminal justice reform movement in Oklahoma,” according to the claim.

The investigation also included efforts to review donations by the ACLU to the criminal justice reform movement in Oklahoma, according to the claim.

The claim said Prater had no reasonable suspicion or probable cause to seek the information “as his personal weapon against his political enemies.”

Muller told Prater he had found no evidence of criminality, according to the claim.

“Mr. Prater immediately became irrational and angry upon learning about the outcomes of Mr. Muller’s investigation,” the claim said.

Muller was fired in early 2019, according to the notice.

“I am reading the details of the claim for the first time,” Steele said in a statement. “I intend to monitor the facts as they unfold in this pending action.

“Meanwhile, I remain focused and committed on working with fellow Oklahomans to safely reduce our prison population, strengthen families and invest in alternatives to incarceration.”

Muller’s lawyer, Robert Gifford, said his client is a whistleblower.

Gifford said there were no allegations of misconduct or impropriety involving Muller, who is a former police officer and special agent for the U.S. Secret Service.

“If Mr. Muller or Mr. Gifford truly believed there was anything inappropriate, the proper thing would be to call the OSBI or the FBI, not the press,” Prater said.

Gifford also wrote Hunter’s office about his concern concerning the use of the multicounty grand jury to issue subpoenas when it was not warranted.

Gifford asked Hunter to investigate what information Prater provided to his office to get the subpoenas.

Gifford also wants Hunter to review of all multicounty grand jury subpoena requests from Prater’s office in recent years to ensure compliance and address concerns over prosecutorial abuse.

“Our office received the letter at 11 p.m. Wednesday night,” said Alex Gerszewski, a Hunter spokesman. “We are reviewing it and will respond in a timely fashion.”

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Emerson Elementary School mural celebrates black history, Greenwood District significance

For years, a portion of Latimer Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard was considered an eyesore.

A retaining wall adjacent to Emerson Elementary School, 909 N. Boston Ave., left the space relatively undesirable following a 2017 remodeling project.

The wall, said Emerson principal Diane Beckham, was a blight that could no longer be overlooked.

She quickly became convinced something — anything — must be done to change what was overshadowing a beautiful school.

“There was nothing there previously,” said Beckham of what before was only a blank concrete wall accompanied by chain link fencing.

That something has now come, two years later, in the form of a mural that stretches nearly a full city block.

Where once stood a deteriorating barrier has been transformed into a colorful and poignant reminder of O.W. Gurley, Simon Berry, George Washington Carver, Black Wall Street and the Greenwood District.

Those iconic figures, along with famed educator Maria Montessori, are part of the large “Heritage, History and Hope Mural” on the grounds of Emerson that celebrates historical achievements by African Americans while also honoring the north Tulsa community that surrounds the school.

“This is a way to express to the community that Emerson is very much part of a community that has existed for a long time,” said Mary Williams, mural project curator with Color Me True Destiny Programs. “We hope this inspires conversation among community members and teachers and students to bring in black history as part of history studies.”

The mural also highlights individual contributions of African Americans over time, including depictions of Mt. Zion Baptist Church, the Oklahoma Eagle newspaper, the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and a “Tree of Knowledge” section that features names of dozens of other renowned people.

“This is especially for students and teachers who want to do more than teach about the violence of black history in America and bring a balance to the contributions that black Americans have made since the beginning of our nation,” said Williams, who worked closely with the Emerson Foundation and Tulsa Arts District to help support the project.

Since the work was completed by a team of local artists before finally being unveiled earlier this month, the mural has also brought something just as meaningful.

Anecdotal stories chronicle a sort of deep connection with the mural. Not just that it simply exists, but because it has given residents a sense of newfound pride. Those associated with the project described visitors shedding tears and even thanking the artists for providing a welcome aesthetic overhaul.

“I think it’s remarkable how Mary and the other artists were able to capture the spirit of the community and all the positive historical moments,” said Beckham.

She was also pleased that the Montessori educational model was honored in the artwork. It was particularly significant since Emerson, which adopted the learning model last August, is Oklahoma’s only public Montessori school.

So far the popularity of the mural, even in its infancy, has prompted plans for orchestrated public tours to be held to introduce as many people as possible to the work.

“We are there to inspire students,” said Beckham. “This is just one more way we can do that.”

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