Mar 30, 2023 27 min read

Tulsa, Where Urban Resilience and Equity Intersect

Image of Krystal Reyes with quote from transcript.

Episode 43, 37 min listen  

If you are working in city or county government or trying to find a way to engage your broader community in resilience, immigration, or equity work, this episode is for you. If you’re trying to understand how work at the intersection of resilience and equity can come together, this episode is also for you. Join me as we talk with Krystal Reyes to learn more about Tulsa, Oklahoma and the hard work and progress taking place in her city.


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Learn more about the Mayor's Office on Resilience and Equity.

Explore Tulsa's 2018 Resilience Strategy, follow their progress in the latest progress update, and check out their Equality Indicators.

Krystal mentioned a key fact about life expectancy differences within Tulsa. If you want to learn more about life expectancy gaps across the country and in your community, here are additional sources of information for you to explore.

Learn more about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

Learn more about the Resilient Cities Network.

Learn more about the Government Alliance on Race and Equity.

Learn more about the Welcoming America Network.

Learn more about Bloomberg Philanthropies' initiative to establish Financial Empowerment Centers.

Check out our interview, Moving from Talk to Action, with fellow Tulsan, Representative Monroe Nichols.

If this episode really interested you, you might want to check out our City Collection. A collection of our interviews that focuses on change at the city or county level.

To get the best of our learning delivered straight to your inbox, signup for our newsletter, The Inclusive Community.


Krystal currently serves as Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Tulsa. In this role, she leads the Mayor’s Office of Resilience Equity, which is charged with implementing city-wide strategies to advance resilience, equity and inclusion, community partnerships, human rights, and financial empowerment efforts. Previously, Krystal held various leadership positions in local government and non-profit sectors in New York City, coordinating multi-disciplinary, community-led, and city-wide efforts to address disparities in health and well-being. Throughout her career, Krystal has focused on improving the quality and quantity of early education opportunities for children, improving supports for families and immigrant communities, and developing meaningful community partnerships.  Krystal has a Bachelor of Arts in politics and Spanish literature, as well as a master’s degree in public administration from New York University.

Krystal was born and raised in Moline, IL, and lived in New York City for 19 years before moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2019. Her parents, both immigrants from Mexico instilled in her a strong work ethic and the belief in the value of education. As a high school student Krystal participated in Upward Bound, a federal TRIO program for first generation college-bound low-income students. She credits that program and the supportive staff with giving her the head start she needed to apply to college, enroll, and succeed in higher education and her career. In her free time, Krystal enjoys listening to Bob Dylan, astronomy, and constantly walking her blue heeler dog, Venetia.




Ame Sanders  00:10

This is the State of Inclusion Podcast, where we explore topics at the intersection of equity, inclusion and community. In each episode, we meet people who are changing their communities for the better. And we discover actions that each of us can take to improve our own communities. I’m Ame Sanders. Welcome.

If you're new to State of Inclusion, I should probably tell you that we love, love finding cities who are all in on working towards equity and inclusion. And I think we hit the jackpot in today's episode, where we will learn more about Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Earlier in this episode, our guest Krystal Reyes told us that Tulsa is a very diverse welcoming place here in the middle of Oklahoma. Yet, as our conversation progressed, she did more than just tell us that Tulsa was a welcoming place. She shared the many ways that her team and the city are actively working to create that reality and make Tulsa more welcoming, resilient, and equitable.

What I love about this episode is that community engagement and co-creation are part of everything they do. And also the way they leverage national networks to bring outside expertise and grants to bear on their local work. Krystal shared that by being a part of many national communities of practice, around resilience and equity, they lift up not only their own city, but other cities as well,

if you are working in city or county government, are trying to find a way to engage your broader community and resilience, immigration or equity work, this episode is for you. And if you're trying to understand how work at the intersection of resilience and equity can come together, this episode is for you. Join me as we learn more about a community that has been at this work of equity and inclusion for years, and is now seeing the fruits of its work.

Today, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to talk with Krystal Reyes, the Chief Resilience Officer for Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Director of the Mayor's Office for Resilience and Equity, or MORE.

Welcome, Krystal, thank you so much for joining us today.

Krystal Reyes  02:20

Thanks for having me.

-About Tulsa

Ame Sanders  02:30

There's just a ton of questions I have for you about your work. But first, maybe you can help ground us a little bit and tell us about Tulsa, about the city that you serve, and things that we should understand about the resilience and equity challenges that you face in Tulsa?

Krystal Reyes  02:46

Sure. Well, in that question, we'll probably touch on a lot of things that we wanted to talk about today about the work and just kind of the reasons why. So, Tulsa, Oklahoma is a city of about 400,000. Of course, there's more in the metro area. But it's a city of about 400,000, and a pretty diverse city. About 17% of our community identifies as Latino or Hispanic, 14%, African American, about 5% Asian, and about the same Native American. And then we have a lot of diverse communities. We have a large refugee community here from various countries. A long-standing community has been our refugee community from Myanmar, Burmese, and Zome communities here, and we're seeing more and more from other countries. In the last two years, we've welcomed nearly 1000 refugees or asylees from Afghanistan. And so it just kind of shows you that Tulsa is a very diverse, welcoming place here in the middle of Oklahoma.

-About Krystal

Ame Sanders  03:44

I found out that you are a leader in Child and Family Policy. How did a leader in Family and Child policy end up working on resilience for taking this role?

Krystal Reyes  03:56

Sure. Well, I think probably the common theme throughout my career, which has always been in government or a nonprofit, has been supporting communities. And for much of, a few of my roles, the focus has been supporting families, and families with young children, working in also child welfare, an early childhood education, at the government, and also nonprofit. But really, I think the kind of through line is supporting families being able to access resources, support to be able to thrive. And though Child and Family Policy has been a very kind of general term, but it has encompassed a lot of things, from adolescent health to child welfare to community engagement, kind of everything in between.

-Definition of Resilience

Ame Sanders  04:38

Tell us a little bit about what Tulsa thinks of and what you think of when you guys talk about resilience, because resilience means a lot of different things to people.

Krystal Reyes  04:48

Yeah. So in Tulsa, we talked about urban resilience. And so one of the I think great things about Tulsa is that this mayor when he came into office, wanted the city of Tulsa to be one of those 100 Resilient Cities. It was an initiative of the Rockefeller Foundation. As part of that initiative, the cities that were part of that network established roles like mine, so they established the role of a chief resilience officer, and they committed to developing a resilience strategy. And all the cities, there are about 25 of them across the country and about maybe 88-90 worldwide. We all use this definition of resilience for our cities. Resilience is the ability of everything from an individual to a business to a whole city to have the ability to survive, adapt and thrive through chronic stressors or acute shocks. And for cities, and in particular for Tulsa, we have a lot of shocks and stressors. The kind of shocks that you normally think of when you think of cities is you know, maybe natural disasters or kind of shocks through weather. We're in Tulsa, Oklahoma, so one of those shocks can be a tornado or a flood or, most recently, an earthquake. And then chronic stressors are similar to other cities, we have chronic issues around economic opportunity and inequality, our homelessness issue, or our underfunded schools. Those are chronic stressors that impact communities. And so in Tulsa, we view that definition of resilience, and we use that to guide our work. And it's very similar to other cities. And, in the city of Tulsa, the work that went into creating that plan involved engaging nearly 2000 community members looking at data, and identifying the 41 programs, policies, practice changes, and events that the community thought would impact our resilience and equity. And one of the major or top challenges that the city and community members identified as a resilience challenge was our racial equity. We have a large life expectancy gap in one part of our community that has been historically where a lot of our African American community lived and another part of our community that has been mostly white. At one point there was a 14-year life expectancy gap. That gap has narrowed over the years but that's a data point that we look at that we want to make sure shrinks over time. so that everyone in Tulsa has a great shot at living a long, healthy life full of opportunity.

-Community Engagement

Ame Sanders  07:10

There's a couple of things I want to unpack from what you said and kind of explore a little bit. So first, I think we can all understand this idea of shocks and stressors, and being able to overcome those and thrive. And I think it's encouraging that you guys considered racial equity as part of that equation from the very beginning. It sounds like you had a very significant involvement from your community, in the definition of the things that were important for this work. Can you talk a little bit about how that was done, and even how you do it today, how you make sure that the community is part of the work that you're doing?

Krystal Reyes  07:47

Yeah. So the Mayor's Office of Resilience and Equity in our city, in general, tries to involve community members as early as possible in the process of creating a program or policy or a plan. And for the resilience strategy, as I mentioned, there was a series of meetings over a year with different community groups. There were steering committees. There were bigger meetings to get input. There were groups looking at data, groups looking at best practices. And through that I would say our resilience strategy is very much community informed and created in collaboration with community members. As you know, as all things are when you launch something you have to go into implementation mode. And for our office, we have very much carried over that principle of including communities in our implementation as well. Many times in government, you kind of involve community in the plan, and then kind of government, the city, kind of implements it. But we really in our office, try to involve community members in the implementation as well. And that looks like establishing advisory boards or hiring community members with lived experience as consultants to work on the project. It involves co-creating the project or the implementation plan with community members. Because our resilience strategy had 41 programs, policies, and practice changes, many in different levels of kind of thought or development or resources. And so even in implementation, we still had a lot of work to do to identify what was ready to go, what needs a little bit more resources, what needs more planning, and so at all stages, we involve community members, as much as possible so that we're not implementing in a vacuum.

Ame Sanders  09:31

So it sounds like you have a combination of advisory boards, and also people who are part of the actual implementation process. And so talk a little bit about your advisory boards, how you've structured those, and what they look like.

Krystal Reyes  09:46

Sure. So it depends on the project and the goal of the program or the policy. Sometimes they're smaller. So we have an advisory group that has been working with us regularly on economic opportunity-related actions and our strategy. And that includes individuals from our immigrant and refugee communities, doing work to help support entrepreneurs, to our city staff who are working in economic development to our workforce providers. And so that group has met regularly for about a couple of years to advise on how we can implement these various initiatives to support economic opportunity in our communities. And then we have standing advisory groups which we formally call Commissions. In the city of Tulsa, we have five Commissions that represent various communities. And they meet once a month. They're a public body. Their charge is to provide recommendations, advice, suggestions, conduct research, advocacy, community engagement to City Hall. So that city council, the mayor, the county, even for some of the Commissions. And they represent our Latino community, our African American community, our Native American community, and then we have a two Commissions on the status of women and human rights. And so that's another example the type of advisory board that we have. And then we also have groups that we convene as needed. And then we also have planning committees that are groups that we need to get a project done. So sometimes there is a very time limited group. We ask folks to meet over four months to establish a draft of something or to help us move a project forward. So it really is no one size fits all for the type of work that we do.

-National Networks and Communities of Practice

Ame Sanders  11:29

So one of the things that was interesting to me, Tulsa kept showing up in a lot of my research, because you're involved in a lot of extended networks. So you talked about the 100 resilient cities already, which is probably where you first came to my attention, but you're also part of other networks, the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, as well as working with the Bloomberg Foundation on Financial Empowerment Centers, and My Brother’s Keeper, and Compassionate Community. So in listening to you, one of the things that comes to mind about Tulsa is you guys seem like a poster child, for how a community can take this to scale, both in terms of reaching out, to engage with outside experts, to bring that expertise to bear on your community to help you move this forward, and then also how to engage a large base of your community, in moving this forward. Talk a little bit about that, because that's pretty impressive. You know, I've talked to a number of communities, and I'll be honest with you, there are a number of communities who are trying to figure out how to do that. And I think you might have some advice that you could share.

Krystal Reyes  12:43

Well, Ame, that's actually the advice I give. Is for other cities, when I talk to other practitioners or other government officials, or my colleagues and other cities. I recommend that they reach out to those national networks so that their city can be part of those networks. And they can tap into that, colleagues that can help provide advice, best practices, tools. In city government, we steal from each other all the time. We don't want to reinvent something if another city has already either written it or has tried an approach, especially if there's data to back that up. What we do is we very much try to be part of those national networks. You've mentioned a few. Another one is the Welcoming America Network, that's our network that we belong to, that helps cities create inclusion strategies for immigrant and refugee communities. And we've benefited so much from them. So not only do we get access to the best practices in that network, but many of those organizations have grants to give. And so we've been able to pilot things, get things moving, kind of give things a little bit of a resource push to move them off high center. And then we also have connected with other people in other cities, because that's a really important part of this work. This work is hard. It can be challenging. And I think when you can have your peers support you and kind of share the same challenges that's really important to help keep people doing the work. And though we definitely love being part of national networks and always happy to share as well. What we've done in Tulsa, we always share with others. And if any city reaches out, we're always happy to give them materials we've created or advice or jump on a phone call. Many other cities have done that for us. So we like to give back that way.

Ame Sanders  14:30

And that's great. And I know you also export some of your wisdom a little bit too, because I had the opportunity to interview Representative Monroe Nichols, who works with strive together at a national network, but who also did local work with Tulsa, in the cradle-to-career education area. And so you export some of your wisdom to the rest of the country as well. So that's I'm sure appreciated by the cities who have had the opportunity to learn from you as well.

When you engage with these outside networks, is it largely your team that's doing that? Or do you have some of the community members engaged in some of these external networks? How does that work?

Krystal Reyes  15:08

Well, I mean, everything. I can't think of something we do that has not engaged community. So I would say everything we do engages community members, whether those are the people with lived experience, or the nonprofits or the foundations or businesses that are supporting communities. But I'll give you an example, just because it just happened recently. So we're part of the Welcoming America Network, which is supporting cities to create inclusion plans or what we call welcoming plans for immigrant refugee communities. And they have a certification process. There are, I think, a little over a dozen cities that have gone through the welcoming certification process. And the city of Tulsa participated in this year's certification process that they were piloting because they were updating their standards. Our city, along with two others was elected to go through the new certification. And in that process, there was an audit, and the Welcoming America team came, and we coordinated about 20 meetings over three days with over 60 community partners, from city departments to nonprofits, to businesses to foundations. We absolutely could not be certified without community engagement. And our Welcoming America partners at the national level really got to meet and understand all of Tulsa and that really cannot be just the city government saying we're welcoming. And then those organizations, any organization in the city of Tulsa could join the Welcoming American Network. The city, of course, is a member agency and our local YWCA is, and we always share grants that are coming from Welcoming America with our partners. So we really try to expand the access that our communities and organizations have to these types of networks so they can benefit as well.

-Staff and Structure

Ame Sanders  16:50

It also makes me wonder how big a team you have to pull all this off because this is a lot of work.

Krystal Reyes  16:56

You know, it's so funny because I do talk to colleagues in other cities that have offices. And so we're always like, “oh, well at least you have, you know, one person or two people.” Our team, when I first arrived, we had three full time, with me. So it was four total. And then over the last three years, we've been able to add a couple more individuals to focus on specific things because we've gotten some grants. Right now we're a team of five. And I always also have an paid intern. We partner with our local workforce investment board, to make sure we can get work experience for a young person to be able to work with us. And then we also usually have a fellow. So we do try to try to increase the number of people that can work with us. But yeah, we have one person dedicated to our immigrant refugee inclusion work, another person that's dedicated to our financial empowerment work, someone that supports our commissions that I mentioned earlier, another person that does our compliance and discrimination, complaint investigations, and another person that does our resilience work related to our food security, and justice involved Tulsans. So we kind of divide and conquer. But we do try to kind of have a point person for each of these areas of work.

-Scope, Scale, and Time

Ame Sanders  18:10

You know, so many cities that I talked with have one or two initiatives going on. At the point that I speak with them, often they feel that's all they can take on or they're just beginning to get started. And they don't see themselves taking on quite as many initiatives as you have going on or as broad a program of work. So maybe you can talk a minute about how you see, for a city like Tulsa, which is a nice, medium-large city, how you see this work in terms of scale. And also in terms of time horizon. You've been at this for a while with Tulsa, but Tulsa was at this before you started with them. And I also talked to cities who are at the beginning of some of this work. And so one of the things that's important for them is to begin to get their head around what kind of time horizon is it before you begin to see the results of this work. And how should I think about both the scale and the time?

Krystal Reyes  19:10

Yeah. I would advise cities to take on maybe like three big things, especially if there's like a shortened timescale. I think that what's great is when you have such a community buy-in for a plan. But I think the managing expectations around when things can be accomplished and what it will take to do them, I think is very important. The resilience strategy that we have has, as I mentioned, 41, programs, policies, practice changes, and events. And then separately, our welcoming plan, which is our immigrant refugee inclusion plan has about 26 goals. There is no way that all of that can be done in one, two, or three years. And so we have mapped it out over the years. When we launched the resilience strategy, there were kind of launch dates, of course, you know, a pandemic happened in the middle of all this, and so we've been delayed on a few things. But I would say, yeah, I think tackling a few handfuls of things, especially if there's been community involvement from the very beginning, being able to continue to engage those communities is very important. And you can't do that with dozens and dozens of initiatives unless you have a very, very large team. So we're sort of in the middle somewhere, we have a lot of initiatives, but we also are not just a team of one or two people, which I know many other cities just have one or two people. And then on the timeline. One thing I would recommend, especially for those that are in offices like mine, which are mayor's offices, is to start thinking about the transition. So we were lucky in that this mayor was reelected. And so we have four more years to implement the work. But now we're coming to the close of that second term. And we have been focused on figuring out how to institutionalize all of this work. So the goal is to institutionalize the plans, the work, the data, and the accountability. And then giving yourself more time, these are problems that were created through generations of policies that did not benefit all communities. And so it's gonna take a while to dismantle that. But things can be done to impact people in the short term as well. And so that's why it's really important to talk about that, engage communities, and also be very realistic about what's accomplishable within the first three years

-Political Process

Ame Sanders  21:19

Listening to you makes me want to go in two different directions. So I'll start with one question then I have another one. So the first one is about this political process that you alluded to, which is the cycle of elections, and the whole political process being part of a mayor's office brings with it. What are your thoughts about that and whether this kind of work is best placed within a city office or if it's better placed at a broader and different community spot or how you see where an organization like this should be?

Krystal Reyes  21:52

Well, I think there's no right answer, because every city is different. Some cities are mayor-council cities, so there's a mayor that is kind of the executive of the government or the executive of the city government. And there are other cities that have a city manager. I think other cities don't even have that structure, they have all their alders or commissioners. So I think it really depends. But I think everyone's goal should be that this work is prioritized and that it's tracked. And so in the city of Tulsa, we publish an annual report called the Equality Indicators to measure our progress. And so I think we're looking to prioritize, to make sure that there's data, and things are tracked. Wherever that will happen, I think, is where it needs to go. And so you know, in the city of Tulsa, the fact that the Mayor established this office, created this role, decided that our resilience strategy was going to be launched with a racial equity focus, that all was really important because it galvanized the whole city, I believe. And so could that have happened if like, the city manager had done it, or could it have happened if a county commissioner had done it? I don't know. It depends on the city and the area. But in Tulsa, I think it really was a benefit to have this out of the mayor's office when it was launched, and as we're implementing it. Now, as we're transitioning, the mayor is not going to run for another term. He had only committed to two terms from the very beginning. And he's sticking to his word. And so he will be leaving at the end of 2024. And so all the team here is figuring out how we can continue this work so that the next administration has the tools, the resources, and has the data it needs to continue to make progress on equity, inclusion, and resilience in Tulsa.

-Progress Tracking

Ame Sanders  23:41

And that probably brings me to the other part of the question that I wanted to ask you, in listening to you describe this, which was about progress. So how do you look at progress? You have talked about your Equality Indicators. But what are the ways that you assess the progress that has been made so far on this effort, and how do you see and track that going forward?

Krystal Reyes  24:05

Okay, that's a hard question. Because there's so much that can be tracked. And there's so much that is tracked, that you can't always link so neatly to the work, but we know that it's making an impact. So what we've tried to do is from the very beginning when we launched the resilience strategy, we also launched this Equality Indicators Project. And that was also part of the network that we were part of with the Resilient Cities Network. So there were about five cities that published an Equality Indicators report that year, I think a few have continued. Some may not do it every year, but we have consistently published the report each year. And that was also a process that involved community members to decide what would go into that report. Equality Indicators is a set of 54 indicators, across six themes, like public health and economic opportunity, education and such that measure the disparity between two groups, whether that's a geography like two different parts of town, or racial and ethnic groups or women versus men. And so that was all very specific to Tulsa. So we can't really compare our Equality Indicators to another city’s, if they measure because they're looking at different things, because different things are important. So we’ve been able to publish that, and we have increased our Equality Score. And we also look at qualitative data as well. So we have been able to open doors, the doors of city hall and government to different groups. So, you know, we qualitatively or anecdotally know that more people feel engaged and more people know about their government. We've opened up internship opportunities to communities that have never ever worked in City hall. We've opened up city hall for citizenship ceremony, so nearly 800 people have become US citizens in the City Hall, that normally would have had to have driven 90 miles to our state capitol. And so we do kind of qualitative things that we know are just making a difference and opening people's eyes to what City Hall is. But we're also tracking the data around homeownership, wages, health insurance things that we think should have zero gap.

Ame Sanders  26:15

Do you think that if I were to talk to people in your community, they would feel that things are different now?

Krystal Reyes  26:22

I would say yes. When we talk kind of one on one with folks or in meetings, and even when we were having these Welcoming America certification audit meetings people mentioned they've seen a difference over the last few years in how city government engages with communities, the different initiatives that are being advanced the focus on equity and resilience. So I think, yes. I think over time, and through the work that this administration has done, people do feel like things were being done differently. And there was a sense of things being different.

-A Painful Past

Ame Sanders  26:55

Tulsa has a terrible legacy in terms of racial violence as many, too many of our communities do. And I'm thinking specifically about the Greenwood massacre. And that came into the news recently, obviously, with the 100-year anniversary in 2021. So can you talk a little bit as well about what it means in your office and in your community, for Tulsa to grapple with that kind of history? And how you address that in your work and how you help the community heal and move forward from that?

Krystal Reyes  27:35

Sure. So I think what was important about the resilience strategy is that it was launched a few years before the centennial. And it actually is one of the reasons, that book, is one of the reasons that I came to Tulsa, I'm not from here originally and came across Tulsa. It came on my radar for a couple of reasons. But one of those was the was the resilience strategy, which named that history of violence. You know, we are also the location of where the Trail of Tears ended and our city is located or it is on Native American land. Three nations cross Tulsa, intersected in Tulsa. And so we have this history that wasn't grappled with for generations. And it was something that was discussed. And those conversations have been normalized now, in this city. And I think that's one of the first steps that a city and communities need to take is the normalizing of the conversations around what happened, naming the impacts in the legacy of historical and structural racism, talking about racism, talking about racial equity, and what that means, and having difficult conversations with community members, family members, your workplaces, and also across the city. You mentioned the Government Alliance on Race and Equity. And that's an approach that I took when I came here. I applied because I used it in New York City when I was doing racial equity work there. And normalizing conversations around racial equity is very important. And there was a whole national conversation around what had happened in 1921. And I think that was important for the country as well. It came with a lot of hard conversations. And I think still a lot of hurts. But I think what's important is that we are talking about it, and there are actions associated with trying to address those disparities. But I think for any city, I think being able to name those things. One thing that is also part of this work is our search for mass graves from the massacre. This mayor is the first mayor in 100 years to actually find out what happened to those families and has put resources into figuring out that. That came with controversy as well, but it was very important to be able to identify and to talk about that. Because I'm not sure if you've ever been to Tulsa, but the location where one of the mass graves is located is right in the middle of town. People drove by it, drove by that cemetery probably their whole lives and didn't know that. So these are conversations that are being opened up right now that are very difficult, but very important.


Ame Sanders  30:00

And are you guys beginning to talk at all about reparations? Because when I talk with cities, some cities are terrified of that subject. Some are beginning to try to grapple with that. But it is a big and complex subject. And I assume that it is something that comes up as well in the work that you're doing.

Krystal Reyes  30:19

It has, and I think a lot of community members are engaged with it in different ways. One thing that at the city we tried to kind of share a lot is that a lot of the disinvestment that happened, we're trying to reverse. And so there's been a lot of investment, a lot of public funds, grant funds put into areas, for example in North Tulsa, to help increase homeownership and bring employers there, create transportation options. And so I think that's what our city has been focused on. To try to understand, okay, where are those areas that have had the most disinvestment? And then how can we reverse that? And that's been happening over the past several years, including with the creation of, the consolidation of our economic development authority. So there were about 12 entities that were all kind of touching or involved with economic development. It just wasn't achieving what we needed in terms of addressing and streamlining things. And so we created what is called Partner Tulsa or the Tulsa Authority for Economic Opportunity. And from the very beginning, that kind of public-private arm has been focused on equity and has several projects that are going on in North Tulsa.

Ame Sanders  31:28

Yeah. So when I've talked to people one of the first things they remind me, of course, the most important step is to stop doing more harm. And then I think your point of reversing some of the disinvestment and to make positive investments. And it's very interesting that you have an economic development organization and arm of the city that has is operating with an equity lens. Because that makes a big difference when they have that as part of their mandate. So are you, is the city then beginning to see results from this reordering of investments?

Krystal Reyes  32:02

Yeah, well, you know, it's interesting that we have this conversation. We just released our Equality Indicators report for the last year, last week. We have seen some improvements in some areas, and of course, some areas where we still need to work. But we have seen commute time disparities go down. We're seeing more entrepreneurs. There's development happening there. And so I think we are starting to see. I think we can look at the kind of process outcomes. There's been lots of public funding going into these areas. And I think in terms of seeing those concrete things in terms of homeownership, wages, we're slowly seeing some improvements as well.

-Final Advice

Ame Sanders  32:41

Are there any other areas that we haven't talked about that you feel we should have touched on or any other pieces of advice that you'd like to offer to cities who are trying to find their way to create an organization like yours and begin to pursue their city's set of initiatives that will make it more resilient and equitable?

Krystal Reyes  33:00

Well, one is connecting with national networks, which will not only give you access to some important best practices and support from national partners but also will create a peer network for you. This work, as I mentioned, is very challenging. And so the more you can connect with your peers and get support, the more you'll be able to do the work. So cities aren't alone. More and more cities are creating this role of a resilience or equity officer. And I would say also making sure that it's not a silo. So this work is not just in our office, and we're not the only people focused on equity. We work with our agencies and departments. We're embedding policies and language into various other departments. And so that'll be very important to not kind of silo the work from the beginning. Making sure that the silos are broken from the start, or that they don't exist. And then, you know, just kind of reaching out to experts on how you can measure this. So there's lots of data out there.

There’s different on-ramps to this work, I like to say. And sometimes people need a data on-ramp, sometimes people need the story, the personal story on-ramp, and sometimes people need the policy rationale. So I think being able to speak to all those different audiences and creating all the different on-ramps to the work is very important. And lots of cities have done it in many different ways. So reach out, and we'll all help each other with this. Cities are what makes our country great. And we need to be able to support them and make cities, places of thriving for everybody.

Ame Sanders  34:30

I love your concept of the fact that you need so many different on-ramps. Because it is true that people come to this work in different ways and with different expectations. And creating those on-ramps is really a nice visual for us to think about in terms of how to engage in the broader community. And I just want to thank you for talking with us today and for the work that you're doing. And wish you the very best in Tulsa with all that you're planning to do for your city.

Krystal Reyes  34:57

Oh, thank you, Ame. Thank you for having me.


Ame Sanders  35:02

There are so many wonderful takeaways from this episode. Here are a few of the high points for me.

  • Tulsa started their work with sponsorship at the highest level in city government, to as Krystal said, “galvanize the community.”
  • They routinely ensure broad community involvement in all that they do. They effectively work at what we heard another interviewee describe once, as both the “grassroots” and “grasstops” levels. This means building and working a plan that is supported by both the city leaders and has ownership and commitment from community members themselves.
  • You know, Tulsa has a painful past, as many of our cities do, and we talked about that. But it was encouraging to hear Krystal tell us that they are willing to acknowledge that past and they have normalized conversations around race and equity, and that they are linking those conversations to action.
  • In addition, she told us how with their economic development team as an example, they are breaking down silos and bringing an equity lens to all that they do, even reorganizing themselves when that's what's needed.
  • They also have a pragmatic balance of resources needed to achieve this work and the time horizon that will be required.
  • It was also encouraging to hear her tell us that cities don't have to go this alone. Tulsa is setting an example by participating in and contributing to national networks and national communities of practice. In doing so, they elevate the work of their community, but they are also sharing generously with others.

This has been the State of Inclusion Podcast. Join us again next time. And if you enjoyed this episode, the best compliment for our work is your willingness to share these ideas with others. Leave us a review. We'd love your comments. Thanks so much for listening


Guest: Krystal Reyes

Host: Ame Sanders

Social Media and Marketing Coordinator: Kayla Nelson

Podcast Coordinator: Emma Winiski

Sound: FAROUT Media

Ame Sanders
Founder of State of Inclusion. A seasoned leader & change-maker, she is focused on positive change within communities.
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