February 7, 2019. It was Lending Reform day at the Capitol, and many advocates were eager to talk about better lending practices with their legislators. A week earlier, Together Oklahoma (TOK) held several events across the state for members of the community to join in on the conversation about predatory lending. It was here that three TOK members from the Carter County chapter decided to take action. On February 7th at 9 o’clock in the morning, those three determined members and TOK Southeast Field Coordinator, Kyle Lawson braved icy roads and a slick parking lot. “We had a unique group, each with their own area of concern,” he reflected.
The morning started out with a brief meeting with Kris King (ACTION Tulsa), David Blatt (Oklahoma Policy Institute), and other Oklahoma advocates to prepare for the day. Important lending statistics were discussed, handouts were distributed, and a game plan was formed. TOK members were off to their first meeting. Although a daunting task at first, speaking to legislators made them feel more comfortable as the day went on. One of the members, Roxanne Logan, recalled, “Normally I tend to be on the introvert side and prefer to listen as opposed to speaking and allowed Kyle to be the lead, but as each meeting came and went I felt comfortable to speak up. By the time we had our last meeting we were all speaking up and explaining our platform.” Kyle also noticed that he led the the first couple of meetings with legislators. “Then,” he said, “the last legislator we visited that day I couldn’t get two words in as they (TOK members) were brimming with information and very eager to get their point across.”
Another member, Jera Key, offered insights from her work for a local bank and lessons from financial literacy class in high school. “She was able to answer some questions the legislators had.” said Kyle Lawson.
It is important to remember that all Oklahoma citizens have the ability to inform their legislators based on their own experience and expertise. In fact, Together Oklahoma is a wonderful avenue to use your unique perspective and become an effective advocate. TOK member, Jenny Blankenship, added, “I was a little hesitant to go and hesitant to talk with legislators, but by the end of the day I felt comfortable talking about the issue and enjoyed bringing in a perspective from my own community.”
These Oklahomans went from attending a local Together Oklahoma event to practicing advocacy with like-minded people. With Together Oklahoma, there are ample opportunities to learn and grow with others to improve the community that you love. “I truly enjoyed this day. The Capitol is beautiful, everyone we encountered was friendly, and I finally understand and appreciate that the people we elect are actually there to serve their constituents,” Roxanne Logan reflected. “I got that feeling from everyone we spoke with. I am ready and eager to return.”
Oklahomans from every corner of the state deserve the opportunity to be heard in the political process. The connection between rural communities and the State Capitol is vital in making that happen. Together Oklahoma can be that connection. “This is the first of many trips, and it’s great that TOK is helping to bring rural Oklahomans’ voices to the capitol,” said Kyle Lawson.
Click here to join a local Together Oklahoma chapter today!