By EMILY RAMSEY
DIVERSITY PROPONENT: Hannibal Johnson is an attorney, author, consultant regarding diversity and inclusion, and national speaker regarding Tulsa’s Black Wall Street history, the Tulsa Race Riot and other themes.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
Editor’s Note: Hannibal Johnson is one of Greater Tulsa Reporter’s “10 to Watch in Greater Tulsa 2018,” as announced in its January 2018 issue. was the first news group in Greater Tulsa to introduce “10 People to Watch,” which launched in January 2009.
Throughout the year, is publishing a series of articles, featuring each of its “10 to Watch,” with next month’s issue to feature Susan Neal of Gilcrease Museum and the University of Tulsa.
Though Hannibal Johnson may not be a native Tulsan, his passion for the legacy of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street and diversity and inclusion has made him a well-known advocate both locally and nationally for diversity and improved community race relations.
Johnson will further that advocacy in July, when he assumes the role of 2018-2019 Rotary Club of Tulsa president.
Johnson, an Arkansas native, holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Arkansas and a law degree from Harvard School of Law.
He is the author of numerous published books, all with the common theme of race and diversity. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and the University of Tulsa. He is an attorney, consultant regarding diversity and inclusion, and national speaker regarding Tulsa’s Black Wall Street history, the Tulsa Race Riot and other themes.
In addition to his professional endeavors, he has been a long-time active community member.
Johnson is past president of Leadership Tulsa, the Metropolitan Tulsa Urban League and the Northeast Oklahoma Black Lawyers Association. He served as chair of the board of directors of The Community Leadership Association, an international leadership organization, during 2001 – 2002, is a founding director of the Oklahoma Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, and is past chair of the board of the Oklahoma Department of Libraries.
Annually, he speaks to the class of Leadership Tulsa in an effort to help them understand the current dynamics of race in Tulsa and how they were formed.
“These people are leaders in the area or aspiring leaders, and they need to be aware of Tulsa’s history including our legacy of the Race Riot and Greenwood’s amazing entrepreneurial past.”
Currently, Johnson is involved with two initiatives focused on fostering police and community relations: the Community and Police Leadership Collaborative (CAPLC) and the Mayor’s Police and Community Coalition (MPACC).
The aim of these programs is, first and foremost, to build relationships that enhance trust, he says. “Both MPACC and CAPLC also help us process racially-charged events, such as the Terence Crutcher and Robert Bates shootings, and make them less likely to reoccur.”
CAPLC, a joint venture between the Tulsa Police Department and Leadership Tulsa that began in 2017, offers an opportunity to bring together police and citizens in one-on-one and group settings to communicate about issues in the community in an effort to build relationships and help officers and citizens better understand each other, Johnson says.
Police officers and local citizens share with one another an experience that is unique to his or her life or profession, helping to open up each other’s eyes to their individual experiences. “It’s about knowledge and information sharing. The more we understand a person and the situation, the less likely we are to make rash judgments,” he says.
MPACC was instituted under Mayor Kathy Taylor’s leadership and has a similar goal of bridging the gap between police and community members.
Racial wounds exist all over our country, including in Tulsa, says Johnson, driving home the vital need for programs like these.
MPACC includes the Mayor, Police Chief, and various police officers and diverse citizens. Members participate in bi-monthly informational sessions, retreats and police ride-along opportunities in order to build stronger relationships “so that when something happens we can keep ourselves in check and have better communication.”
One example of this initiative’s positive effects is in June 2016, when the shooting occurred at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida: “After that event, Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan contacted Toby Jenkins, executive director of Oklahomans for Equality and MPACC member, regarding how the police department could support the LGBTQ community.”
Johnson is also looking forward to another initiative that is soon to launch, a collaboration involving the Rotary Club of Tulsa, Tulsa Police Department and Tulsa Public Schools. The core concept is the creation of something akin to the police athletic leagues that a number of police departments sponsor, he says. The Tulsa version will be broader in scope, focusing on developing children and youth while simultaneously building better community police relations. Details will be forthcoming.
Johnson has been a member of the Tulsa Rotary club for 13 years but has only recently become involved with leadership within the over 100-year-old organization.
“Rotary brings together people with passion and resources for the betterment of the community through community-focused initiatives,” says Johnson.
He credits 2015-2016 Rotary President Jeff Hassell for first involving Johnson in Rotary leadership.
“I was first impressed by Hannibal by the respect he paid to me and all his colleagues by being prepared,” wrote Hassell in an email.
“I was also impressed by his respect for others’ ideas and thoughts,” Hassell continued. “You can genuinely see him listen, absorb and consider others’ thoughts. And when it is his turn to speak, his thoughts are always delivered with eloquence and with care—he considers each opportunity to speak as important and deserving of careful thought and his best efforts.”
Johnson plans to use his presidency to carry out many of the items in the organization’s strategic plan, including the upcoming initiative with and . He also hopes to heighten awareness of the many projects that Rotary does in the community and to grow its member base, particularly in the area of diversity.