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Watch Now: North Tulsa moves closer to having an 'Oasis' in a food desert

For the past three years, Tulsa Economic Development Corp. CEO Rose Washington and District 1 City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper worked together on what they agreed was a top concern for the north Tulsa community: food access.

“We often describe our communities and our city using data. Data points, both positive and negative. In District 1, 93% of the population has limited access to fresh, affordable and quality food, compared to 19% of other Tulsans,” Washington said.

And as Hall-Harper put it Friday morning, the move toward a “proliferation of dollar stores” across north Tulsa has only exacerbated the gap between the community there and other parts of the city.

But the women said the new Oasis Fresh Market in the 1700 block of North Peoria Avenue, which is set to open next spring, is the first step toward defeating the “formidable opponent” that is a food desert.

“You have been through a lot these past few months, given COVID issues (and) with the bias in policing and many other injustices that we face as a country,” Hall-Harper said at the groundbreaking ceremony for the market.

“It’s been a lot, but today just for one moment, let’s take joy in the fact that we are finally able to do our grocery shopping right here in the community that we live in.”

A few minutes later, Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa, told Mayor G.T. Bynum: “We wanna see you shopping at this store. We want you to come across town and shop, especially at this store.”

Bynum earlier addressed the audience, applauding Washington’s and Hall-Harper’s work to make the store a reality and saying, “This is about so much more than a grocery store” for north Tulsans.

“This is just one of those times where you see our city pull together as a community to do better by our neighbors, and it is a beautiful thing to see when it happens,” he said.

Costs for the $3.9 million, 16,425-square-foot facility are being covered by the Tulsa Development Authority, the city of Tulsa through U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program; The George Kaiser Family Foundation; the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation; and the Zarrow Family Foundation.

Nabholz is building the facility designed by local firm KKT Architects, with planning and schematics from EWC1 Architects.

Hall-Harper said the process of getting the store in her district was often “plain old tough,” noting the heavy criticism she’s seen and heard leveled against her and her constituents simply for asking for a quality grocery store near them.

Bynum, in his remarks, thanked Hall-Harper, Washington, the Tulsa Development Authority and others for continuing to work hard on the project for years “even when we had detours and obstacles.”

“I think there’s been an acknowledgement for a while now in Tulsa that throughout this whole city, we want this to be a city where every kid has an equal shot at a great life,” he said. “And the harsh reality of that is there are too many kids growing up in our city who live in food deserts. And there’s been a lot of talk for a long time about the need for fresh groceries and produce in this particular spot.”

Aaron “AJ” Johnson, the executive director of the Tulsa Dream Center and a part of EcoAlliance Group, LLC, said he was honored that Eco will be an owner-operator of the store when it opens.

In addition to being a grocery store, which will include a walk-in beer and wine section, the market will have a demonstration kitchen to help instruct customers on preparing affordable and healthy meals.

“Just imagine a desert. In a desert it’s hot. In a desert there’s a lack of water. In a desert there’s a lack of opportunity. And that’s what this community once was,” Johnson said. “Today we are going to break ground to break that cycle of generational poverty and to break that cycle of food deserts.”


Tulsa danced: Scenes from the Greenwood District block party following President Trump's rally

Tulsa danced: Scenes from the Greenwood District block party following President Trump's rally

Music
topical special report
Tate Brady's name removed from 'walk of fame' outside Cain's Ballroom

The name of original owner W. Tate Brady no longer appears on a sidewalk “walk of fame” outside Cain’s Ballroom.

Sidewalk stars in front of the venue bear the names of bands and individuals who have contributed to the legacy of the historic venue. Among the names: Bob Wills, JJ Cale, Leon Russell, Merle Haggard, Wanda Jackson and Johnnie Lee Wills.

Until recently, you would have seen Brady’s name on one of those stars.

Chad Rodgers provided this statement on behalf of Cain’s Ballroom: “We decided to remove the name Tate Brady from a star on the sidewalk in front of Cain’s Ballroom, as we felt this helps show signs of progress as the community begins a reconciliation with the Black community. The Cain’s Ballroom has always welcomed and hosted all individuals regardless of race, gender, nationality, religion, etc., and we will continue to always do so.”

Brady was an early Tulsa businessman. His name once was attached to Brady Street, Brady Theater and the Brady Arts District, but his name was removed from all of the above because of connections to the Ku Klux Klan. Brady Street now is Reconciliation Way, Brady Theater is the Tulsa Theater and the Brady Arts District is the Tulsa Arts District.

Brady was 54 when he added to his Tulsa real estate holdings by constructing a building at 423 N. Main St. that would eventually become Cain’s Ballroom. The new building, built near Brady’s hotel and mercantile store, was intended to be a garage, and probably a dealership, for automobiles, according to “Twentieth Century Honky Tonk,” a new book about the history of Cain’s Ballroom by John Wooley and Brett Bingham.

Instead of being utilized as an auto garage, the building was used as a school house before becoming a dance hall. The dance hall’s original name was the Louvre, according to the Cain’s Ballroom book.

In 1930, five years after Brady’s death, dance instructor Madison Cain changed the name of the venue to Cain’s Dancing Academy. Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys later gave Cain’s Ballroom a reputation as the Carnegie Hall of Western swing music.

The Walk of Fame outside Cain’s Ballroom came about in conjunction with a 2003 refurbishing. In addition to 32 stars with names on the east side of Main Street, there are stars with no names yet engraved on both sides of Main.

The vast majority of stars bear the names of those who performed at Cain’s Ballrooms. Non-performers with stars were early owners Brady, Cain and O.W. Mayo.


Video: Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum and Dr. Bruce Dart update Tulsans on the continued COVID 19 threat

Gallery: Cain’s Ballroom through the years

Gallery: Cain's Ballroom through the years

Government-and-politics
special report
Oklahoma State Medical Association asks Gov. Stitt to 'enhance' COVID-19 policy, encourage masks

The Oklahoma State Medical Association has asked Gov. Kevin Stitt to put more effort into convincing people to wear masks in public.

“Too many people are still taking an ‘it’s not my problem’ approach to the virus,” Dr. George Monks, president of the OSMA, said in a statement released Thursday.

In an email, the association’s Jennifer Dennis-Smith said doctors have been “disappointed” by the administration’s attitude about masks. It wants Stitt and the state Health Department to strongly encourage mask-wearing in public, especially in view of the sharp rise in cases during recent weeks.

Stitt’s office responded Friday by saying the governor and Health Commissioner Lance Frye “are continuing to evaluate the data in Oklahoma and will be announcing additional measures in the coming days that elevate critical public health guidance without rolling back the reopening of our economy.”

“This is everyone’s problem,” Monks said in the written statement. “As we face this crucial tipping point, Oklahomans must decide if we’re going to move forward in the safest way possible or are we going to declare that the lives of those who have died from this disease are just not as important as our vanity.”

“On behalf of Oklahoma’s physicians, I urge Gov. Stitt and the Oklahoma State Department of Health to enhance their call of robust safety guidelines for Oklahoma businesses and public spaces that require employees and customers to wear masks around others,” Monks said. “Furthermore, we recommend all admitted hospital and pre-operative surgical patients be screened for coronavirus.”

Stitt has tended to portray mask-wearing as a personal choice related to accepting the risk of contracting COVID-19, but health experts say masks’ primary benefit is to prevent wearers from spreading the disease to others.

The governor’s office has not yet responded with a statement.


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Local
Oktoberfest canceled for 2020, Tulsa organizers say, citing pandemic

One of Tulsa’s longest-running and most popular events, Linde Octoberfest Tulsa, is taking the year off because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Oktoberfest Tulsa’s board of trustees announced Friday that the festival, scheduled for Oct. 22-25 at River West Festival Park, has been canceled.

The celebration of authentic German food, drink and entertainment has been held every year for the past 41 years.

“Countless committed volunteers come together each year to produce one of the nation’s top Oktoberfest festivals, right here in Tulsa,” said Ashley Webb, chairman of the board of directors, said in a news release. “Our paramount concern has always been the safety and well-being of our festival-goers, entertainers, vendors, volunteers and sponsors. Despite our best efforts, we have been unable to overcome the current realities of this pandemic.”

Oktoberfest began in Tulsa in 1979. The event attracts approximately 60,000 people a year.

“It’s an extremely difficult time for large events across the country,” said Tonja Carrigg, festival director. “We will continue working closely with volunteers, sponsors, stakeholders and the River Parks Authority throughout the coming year as we look forward to Linde Oktoberfest Tulsa in 2021.”

The 2021 Linde Oktoberfest Tulsa is scheduled for Oct. 21-24.


Video: Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum and Dr. Bruce Dart update Tulsans on the continued COVID 19 threat

Gallery: Summer fun still on the schedule

Living and playing on Tulsa Time: Check out summer events returning and reopening for June