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Commission opens study of human rights violations in Oklahoma City

By Darla Shelden, City Sentinel Reporter


OKLAHOMA CITY – Communities Supporting Human Rights Oklahoma City (OKC4HR) has announced a partnership with Communities Foundation of Oklahoma (CFO) and the Arnall Family Foundation (AFF).  Together the three groups will conduct research on human rights violations in Oklahoma City.

“The goal of our research is to establish a baseline for the status of human rights in the city of Oklahoma City today,” said OKC4HR spokesperson Maurianna Adams.

“This will provide a useful indicator for data-informed decision making and support a localized human rights framework that would monitor and document human rights issues including but not limited to racial discrimination,” Adams added.

OKC4HR, or Communities Supporting Human Rights, Oklahoma City, is a nonpartisan, grassroots coalition of neighbors concerned about racism and discrimination and the impact that has on the quality of life of Oklahoma City residents. The group forms part of the Task Force established by OKC Mayor David Holt in July 2020 to explore the reestablishment of the defunct Human Rights Commission in the City of Oklahoma City.

Members of the Task Force board include: Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice (co-chair), Maurianna Adams (co-chair), Dr. Quintin Hughes, Sr. (co-chair), Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon, Ward 4 Councilman Todd Stone, Ward 8 Councilman Mark Stonecipher, and State Rep. Chelsey Branham.  To see the entire list of members click here.

Phase I of the project, which was recently completed, included polling of Oklahoma City residents about their knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors towards human rights-related issues.

The surveys were generally proportionate to Oklahoma City’s actual population in terms of gender, age groups, ethnic and racial identities, disability status, foreign-born populations, education and income levels, and regional distribution, according to Adams.

Phase II will build on the survey results to determine which groups were either underrepresented due to complex challenges or were identified to have disproportionate experiences with human rights issues.

Subsequent phases will result in a report with policy, education and community reconciliation recommendations.

In December 2020, the Arnall Family Foundation committed over $55,000 to be used by OKC4HR for the purposes of the surveys and associated research.

“The Arnall Family Foundation is honored to partner with the Oklahoma City Human Rights Commission Task Force in its pursuit to better understand our community’s current human rights status,” said Sue Ann Arnall, president of the Arnall Family Foundation
“We want to see our community free of discrimination and injustice so that every individual has the opportunity to thrive. We believe this project will be a critical step in working to achieve this goal,” she said.

The Communities Foundation of Oklahoma has also committed support towards the OKC4HR efforts.

“CFO is focused on helping communities across our state flourish,” said Teresa Rose Crook, CFO Executive Director. “To do so, we must address the underlying issues that inhibit equality for all citizens. CFO stands ready to assist the Communities for Human Rights-OKC as they seek to build the data and leadership systems necessary to move the needle in Oklahoma.”

Trent England of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, asked to comment on the announced study, reflected, “The United States is the first country in history founded on the idea of human rights, and so it makes sense that we continue to strive toward a ‘more perfect union,’ to be a country and communities where we really do uphold this idea.

“The foundation of civil rights is the understanding that all people are created equal, as it says in our Declaration of Independence, and that we are all endowed with the same basic rights. Hopefully this study will rest on that firm foundation.”

England, former executive vice president and now the David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow at OCPA, continued, “There is a concern that groups try to wrap a political agenda in the guise of human rights. Rather than using rights as a shield to allow people to live their lives in their own way, they use it as a sword to strike down those they see as political adversaries. Most Oklahomans are fair-minded people, willing to live and let live. What they don’t want is a bunch of activists attacking their families or churches or jobs.”

Research shows that out of the 100 largest cities in the U.S., 67 use a board or commission to investigate, educate, and enforce human and civil rights.

Oklahoma City is the nation’s 25th largest city by population. It does not currently have such a board or commission.

Oklahoma City’s Human Rights Commission, established in 1963, was disbanded in 1996 amidst debate regarding extended protections for LGBTQ+ city residents.

For more information, visit okc4hr.com.

NOTE: Patrick B. McGuigan, editor of The City Sentinel, contributed to this report.

(From left) Maurianna Adams spokesperson for Communities Supporting Human Rights of Oklahoma City, Sue Ann Arnall, president of the Arnall Family Foundation and. Teresa Rose Crook, Communities Foundation of Oklahoma Executive Director have partnered to conduct research on human rights violations in Oklahoma City.