MAYOR ANNOUNCES (copy) (copy)

DeVon Douglass, Tulsa’s chief resilience officer, and Mayor G.T. Bynum pose for photographers after a news conference at City Hall in 2016. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World file

The city wants to start a conversation about equity, and you are invited to participate.

In fact, more than 200 people have signed up to take part in Equity Dinners so far. The program, part of the city’s Resilient Tulsa strategy, is intended to foster constructive dialogue among diverse groups with the ultimate goal of creating more unity and understanding.

The first series of dinners is scheduled for Monday and Wednesday at local restaurants. The restaurants are providing their space and food for free. Moderators will lead groups of six to 10 people in discussions of structural racism, interfaith relations, education and economic opportunities.

“We know that trust is built at the speed of relationships, so we want people to be building relationships,” said DeVon Douglass, the city’s chief resilience officer.

The city plans to hold the equity dinners each year around Thanksgiving and Easter. Tulsans can sign up for next week’s dinners online through Friday at www.surveymonkey.com/r/equitydinners.

“Our hope is to bring individuals and groups together that normally would have never met or had the opportunity to cross paths,” said Mayor G.T. Bynum. “Through the equity dinners, we will be able to continue conversations about our strengths and weaknesses as a community and we can work together to build a more resilient Tulsa.”

Linda Jenkins, owner of Jenkins Consulting Group, said she signed up for an equity dinner as a way to continue helping Tulsa become a better place.

“As an African American and Native American person, I wanted to be part of something that is looking at issues that are very important to me,” Jenkins said. “If we are in conversation with people who are just like us, then we are talking to ourselves.”

Jenkins said she would be satisfied with the dinner if participants have a good conversation and feel like they had an opportunity to fully participate and contribute.

Her hope, she said, is that everyone will walk away with “an idea or a perspective that they were not familiar with before they started the conversation.”

The Resilient Tulsa strategy is a comprehensive plan to address inequities in the city — and not just racial inequities. Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the strategy outlines four broad visions for the city with accompanying goals and actions to accomplish those goals.

The visions include: 1) creating an inclusive future that honors all Tulsans; 2) equipping all Tulsans to overcome barriers and thrive; 3) advancing economic opportunity for all Tulsans; and 4) transforming city and regional systems to improve outcomes for all Tulsans.

Douglass said the dinners are meant to do more than build relationships and foster empathy among the participants. They are the beginning of a broader, longer discussion.

“Once the equity dinners have concluded, the moderator questions will be posted on the Resilient Tulsa website for individuals, groups and the faith community to continue the dialogue among community members, friends and family,” Douglass said.

Kevin Canfield

918-645-5452

kevin.canfield@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @aWorldofKC

Staff Writer

Kevin Canfield has covered local government in Tulsa for nearly two decades. He also has reported on downtown development, zoning and community planning.

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