By EMILY RAMSEY
EXPANDED FACILITY: Many community members attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for CAN’s Tulsa Police Department Child Crisis Unit. Pictured with CAN CEO Anna America, center, include Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, City Councilor Karen Gilbert and Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan. They are standing with a box filled with artwork created by Tulsa Public Schools kindergartners that will be used to decorate the new building.
Editor’s Note: Child Abuse Network and Tulsa District 7 City Councilor Anna America is one of Greater Tulsa Reporter’s “10 to Watch in Greater Tulsa 2018,” as announced in its January 2018 issue.
Anna America remembers the first time she heard someone refer to her as a busybody do-gooder. She didn’t take kindly to the label at the time, but now, she admits, she wears it as a badge of honor.
That vision, desire and follow through in bringing about improvement is a constant theme in America’s life.
She has led neighborhood development projects, served as a member of the PlaniTulsa community team, volunteered for the , coached youth soccer, served as a Girl Scouts leader and has volunteered as a driver for Meals on Wheels.
She has served as the executive director of Up With Trees and with Communities in Schools and been a member of the Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education.
She worked on former Mayor Kathy Taylor’s successful run for office in 2006.
She has served as Tulsa’s District 7 city councilor since 2014 and plans to run for a third term later this year.
In late 2017, America was announced as the new of the Child Abuse Network.
All of her decisions, America says, have revolved around three core areas that she is particularly passionate about: children, community and green space.
“I’m fortunate because I have never had to compromise my personal and family principles for my job,” she says.
Her love of community as well as “getting things done” were what moved her to run for city council, despite her dislike of politics.
“I follow the mantra, ‘If you’re going to gripe about things, then work to change them,’” she smiles. “I wasn’t seeing any changes (in my district). That’s why I ran.”
America’s district, District 7, encompasses a large portion of mid and south Tulsa, including along highway 169 from 31st to 101st streets and along Memorial Drive from 41st to 101st streets.
One recurring issue that America has found herself championing for is the success of small business owners through years of perpetual street construction projects, such as in the areas of 51st and 61st streets and Sheridan Avenue and 61st Street and Memorial Drive.
America was responsible for creation of the blue “Business Access” signs in order to draw attention to the fact that businesses are still open during construction, she says.
Another district need that she has advocated for is funding for street improvements. This proved especially true in the Vision Tulsa package, after District 7 was left out of funding projects in the Improve Our Tulsa package that was passed in 2013.
She, therefore, pushed for funding to be included for the widening of Mingo Road between 71st and 81st streets. With the construction of a number of multi-family developments in that area, America knew that this was a top need for her district to ease traffic congestion.
She expects work on that project to begin later this year.
As America begins her tenure with , she plans to focus on heightening the organization’s profile.
The Child Abuse Network began in 1988. The nonprofit organization is located at 2829 S. Sheridan Rd. and brings together under one roof all agencies that investigate and prosecute child abuse, including law enforcement officers, forensic investigators, the department of human services social workers, Oklahoma University medical pediatric staff and Tulsa County prosecutors.
“My job is getting those groups the resources they need so that they can continue their work,” America says.
One area America hopes to address in the future is ’s need for more space because so many groups are housed at the facility. Space had become such an issue that, in 2015, Tulsa Police officers had to move back to the downtown police courts facility.
However, in February, celebrated the completion of its Tulsa Police Department Child Crisis Unit, which sits in a separate building that had been in disrepair but was renovated thanks to donations by Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Ross Group and Inc.
America’s interest in advocating for also involves advocating for all of Tulsa’s social service organizations.
“We have great social services in Tulsa,” she says. But just as our many education groups have all come together to advocate for themselves on a state level, “I would like to see social service organizations gain a cohesive voice in advocating for ourselves.”
will hold its fifth annual Superhero Challenge on Sunday, April 8 at 1 p.m. at the POSTOAK Lodge & Retreat, 5323 W. 31st St.
The event will feature two obstacle courses: a half-mile course for children seven years old and younger and a one-mile course for ones ages eight and above. Both courses include jumping, climbing, crawling, pulling, throwing and trail running.