Governance & Membership
President's Message - October 2022
By Jim Hicks
Oklahoma is a state born from a diverse mixture of race, gender, ethnicity, language and culture. From the forced removal in the 1830s of various eastern tribes into the Indian Territory to the opening of the Oklahoma Land Run at noon on April 22, 1889, the marriage of the Indian and Oklahoma territories into the state of Oklahoma in 1907 has been populated by an incredible mix of diverse individuals. The history of Oklahoma is a story of romance, adversity and adventure. Oklahoma is a story of brave men and women of all races and ethnicities who, out of toil, hardship and suffering, raised themselves up with marvelous achievement. An understanding of Oklahoma’s history provides our members a better knowledge of the society in which we live and a closer understanding of the political, economic and social institutions in which we practice law.
The Board of Governors held its August meeting in Tulsa, which was settled in 1836 by Creek Indians from Alabama. They called their village Lochapoka, meaning “place of turtles.” In advance of the meeting, board members were provided a tour of the Greenwood Rising Museum by Interim Director Phil Armstrong. Greenwood Rising tells the remarkable and resilient story of the Greenwood community by bringing the story of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street to life. The Tulsa Race Massacre occurred over 18 hours from May 31 to June 1, 1921, when a mob attacked residents, homes and businesses in Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood. Many thanks to OBA member Kevinn Matthews and TCBA Vice President Stephanie Jackson for helping organize the moving and insightful tour. Special thanks to OBA member and author Hannibal B. Johnson for autographed copies of his book Black Wall Street 100: An American City Grapples With Its Historical Racial Trauma.
In recent years, we have heard “DEI,” “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion,” “allyship,” “ally,” etc., by a growing number of organizations, including courts and law firms. In addition, while we have seen this growing awareness, progress continues to be slow and, at times, just lip service. In our recent survey of members, question 18 asked, “How can the OBA be a leader for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?” This question generated a tremendous display of responses. In segmenting the data, we saw attitude and behavior differences among ages, races and ethnicities and, to some degree, geographic location. A segment of our membership feels that the OBA should not be involved in this topic or it is irrelevant to the OBA’s mission. Nevertheless, the majority of responses appreciated the efforts the OBA has demonstrated thus far in providing leadership in DEI.
Still more desire additional efforts, felt diversity was fundamental to growth and leadership should reflect the diversity of our organization. The OBA’s diversity and strategic planning committees will be reviewing the comments and suggestions and leading the way in DEI initiatives:
- Diversity is the presence of differences that may include race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, language, (dis)ability, age, religious commitment or political perspective. Populations that have been, and remain, underrepresented among practitioners in the field and marginalized in the broader society.
- Equity is promoting justice, impartiality and fairness within the procedures, processes and distribution of resources by institutions or systems. Tackling equity issues requires an understanding of the root causes of outcome disparities within our society.
- Inclusion is an outcome to ensure those who are diverse actually feel and/or are welcome. Inclusion outcomes are met when you, your institution and your program are truly inviting to all. To the degree to which diverse individuals are able to participate fully in the decision-making processes and development opportunities within an organization or group.
The opportunity for the Board of Governors to learn about the resilience of the Greenwood neighborhood during the tour of the Greenwood Rising Museum helped to focus the board on the DEI goals of the OBA. The Diversity Awards Dinner will take place during the upcoming Annual Meeting on Nov. 3 at the Oklahoma City Convention Center. This is the perfect opportunity to learn more about the amazing work and contributions to diversity, equity and inclusion in our organization by your fellow members. In the face of the Greenwood Rising history and countless other events in Oklahoma history, it is clear that each of us, as attorneys and advocates, must be intentional in our actions to create a genuine, inclusive organization. The OBA stands with readiness and continues to create a more diverse and inclusive organization for all. Stand with us!
Greenwood Rising is located at 23 N. Greenwood Ave. in Tulsa. Learn more about the immersive history center at www.greenwoodrising.org.
President Hicks practices in Tulsa.
Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal – OBJ 93 Vol 8 (October 2022).