Saturday, April 28, 2012

Celebrating, Reconciling, Growing Lives and Community For All

Quick View: Read more below on Futures Meeting Thursday, May 3, 3:30 pm, Boston Speech May 5, New Food Pantry Hours, Next Mobile Food Van Giveaway Day, May 12 10 am to 2 pm GardenPark Party and Dedication Ceremony, and other events and projects.

 Hi all. Well, it has been a busy time in the 74126 and surrounding zip codes lately, to put it mildly; the last newsletter sent out was on April 4 a few days before Good Friday and Easter Weekend, and it had my commentary on the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death that day and the history of race in north Tulsa including personal and family experiences from the days of the Klan being supreme, the race massacre, and the way my father worked to break the cycle of racism for his descendents and his commitment to staying and serving with all for our area throughout the years as a model for me to pass on and that guides our anti-racism and sustainability and reconciliation work here now.

Two days later we had the racially motivated shootings and deaths here; all but one of the murders happened here in our two mile service area, both the shooters and the victims lived in the McLain community area, and it surfaced, again, the work that continues to call to us here to build relationships and to work on the deeper systemic issues of mental health and poverty and class and race and education and domestic abuse and disruption of family life that mark the lives of our youngest of all races here. It was only a month before that we had a good conversation on these issues at our community center around the showing of the documentary on reparations featuring Cornel West, following up on our discussion around the anniversary of the Freedom Riders; it is a part of every tour and discussion we have with folks who come in to work with us. But we know the cycle of racism, like other cycles of violence of the mind, body, and soul, can be broken despite multi-generations and despite events.

Easter Morning we had our Sunrise Service at the new KitchenGardenPark and Orchard at 6005 N. Johnstown Ave. that we have been working on for the past two years; and as the sun was rising we were hearing about the arrests of the shooters, and we were talking about how the vision of the park itself, and why we had taken the abandoned block of houses and trash and buildings and turned it into the park it is becoming, precisely because of its location as a bridge area connecting not rich and poor, but connecting one impoverished area that has predominantly (but not overwhelmingly) black residents with an impoverished area that has predominantly (but not overwhelmingly) white and American Indian residents. Easter morning and the news reminded us of the vision and the work still to do on our mission of the park and the community center and all our projects connecting neighbors. Our recent demographic research confirms what we who live here know; we are rapidly becoming more multi-ethnic (the area of the proposed Turley city boundaries is now down to 56 percent white and is projected to decrease to 52 percent white in three years and so it will soon like much of Oklahoma be a minority majority area, and that our area continues to lose population and services across the ethnic lines; our wider service area including far north city of Tulsa limits will also increase in multi-ethnic diversity as whites and hispanics increase their percentages, even as that area also continues to lose population and services.) At the same time what the statistics do not show yet, is how breaking with stereotypes we are going to see people remaining and relocating here for a simpler and more socially justice oriented life.

Just two years ago we had the crazy dream, working with the OU Graduate Social Work and OU Graduate Design Studio, to try to raise the funds to buy the property to begin the transformation. That took all summer of 2010. Then last year at this time we had the equally crazy dream we could win a national online competition for a 40 fruit tree orchard for it, and on one of the hottest days of the summer of 2011 we had volunteers from the northside and all over Tulsa helping us to plant the orchard. In between we had the help of Rita Scott and State Rep. Seneca Scott and others at the Tallgrass RC&D to help us get a grant with our local Freedom Bank to do the first phase of site preparation work that is just now drawing to a close; with the assistance of partners like Gwen Goff and Steve Eberle and Demalda Newsome and Diane Askins, the Indian Health Care Resource Center and Tulsa Community Gardening Association and others who came and helped and gave we and our neighbors have already put in or have the materials and are scheduled to put in up to 40 beds to go along with the orchard; next coming are more of the social areas and kitchen area and more.

You are invited to come and celebrate with us, to meet others, to share your own community projects, as we pause and hold our Garden Party on Sat. May 12 from 10 am to noon with the speeches and ceremony at 11 am. at 6005 N. Johnstown Ave. (best way is to go to Peoria and turn west at Cherokee School and go up to the top of the hill overlooking downtown Tulsa in one direction, Turley Hill in another, and Bird Creek bottomland in another; or go to the Turley Residential Center on N. Cincinnati Ave. (soon to be MLK Ave. and go east on 61st St to Johnstown; you can park at the Methodist church and come across to the park.) Tours of the park, community information resources, activities for all ages. See the completion of phase one and catch the vision for the future.

Besides the community and the healthy food production for our neighbors in need of both, the Park also helps us grow food for our Food Pantry. New hours are Tuesday and Friday mornings from 9:30 am to noon at our Welcome Table Community Center, 5920 N. Owasso Ave. We just finished this past Thursday with another of our Mobile Food Van Days at Cherokee School giving out some three tons of food in just one hour thanks to many volunteers; our next one will be Thursday June 7, with volunteers needed for just two hours from 10 am to noon, and the giveaway is at 11 am; vouchers for the food can be picked up at our pantry after May 7 for those in our 74126 74130 74073 zipcodes. Volunteers are needed at the pantry and in our clothing room, etc. during the Pantry hours as well.

At the same time lately, we have been working with others to keep community in mind with the State Education Dept efforts and plans with Tulsa Public Schools to renew McLain Jr. and Sr. High School here; that will be the subject of more commentary in the future, as it has been in the past when I have written and spoken about McLain's role in our community revitalization and its history as part of our community history; besides the macro level stuff, I am also trying to raise money for our McLain Foundation to help students take an aviation program first flight trip to Dallas, and also to raise funds for an end of the year Dinner for a mentor, teacher and a top student in as many subject areas as possible. Donations can go to (you don't need paypal to use the online giving) or sent to A Third Place Community Foundation at 5920 N. Owasso Ave., Turley, OK 74126. For more on our McLain work, see these links: my interview; for the new solar panels for the McLain greenhouse project. We continue to work with the conversion of Horace Greeley School into a charter school, and look forward to working more closely with Gilcrease Elementary where our children of the area will now go as part of the Tulsa public school district shifting; and we hope to help our two other schools in the area this coming year, as well as we have been working behind the scenes on plans for repurposing the closed for a year Cherokee School on North Peoria.

More on all of these events with the schools, as well as our community building Disaster Response Work, and our continuing work exploring incorporation and cooperation of Turley, and support for the Fire Dept. and O'Brien Park and other volunteer groups here, and our work on economic development and a possible new Aquaponics project here, will be covered at our monthly Future of Turley planning session, Thursday, May 3 at 3:30 pm at the community center. See a recent TV news story on our efforts here at

I will be travelling to Boston to deliver the keynote address and a workshop at the Ballou-Channing District Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association to be held Sat. May 5 in Fairhaven, MA. The sermon address is "ReShaping the World: church in likeness to a different God" and the workshop will be on our community renewal efforts and how we have done what we have done here with so few people, all unpaid. For some background there is a recent article and update on our missional community approach to church published in Small Talk periodical here at

On Friday, May 18 I will be a part of a panel of residents and leaders in our area on a panel at Rudisill Library as we work with the Tulsa City/County Health Dept. and their opening of the new North Wellness Center here. It is going to be a great summer of new projects popping up all over our area; it has started already with the construction underway on the Shoppes of North Peoria; with the soon to be opening Wellness Center and the Tisdale Specialty Clinic by OU in the old Northland Shopping Center area. Beyond these major funded projects, are all those efforts by groups and individuals and churches who are living out the hope that in the abandoned places love persists.

Tomorrow, Sunday, our weekly public missional gathering at 9:30 am we will continue celebrating Eastertide with the video by progressive biblical scholars Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan on "America as the New Rome" followed by our community planning and sharing about the why we do church the way we do and our work and communion and common meal.

If this is an adventure of missional living you want to be a part of, we need your partnership, and/or your presence, and/or your prayers, and/or your gifts at Help us keep surprising the world.

Thanks, blessings, Ron

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