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In Praise of “Red” Cities and Purple America: Tulsa, OK

| Essays

Tulsa Skyline

Dear blue state friends,

Allow me to tell you something about Tulsa, particularly if you have never visited.

Tulsa is friggin awesome.

Birthplace of SE Hinton, John Hope Frankin, Bill Hader and Current Poet Laureate Joy Harjo. The cultural capital of the state. Home to the Bob Dylan archive and the Philbrook Museum of Art. Cain’s Ballroom (i.e. Johnny Cash’s favorite venue outside of Nashville) and the BOK Tower (i.e. the building Minoru Yamasaki honed his skyscraper chops on right before sketching the World Trade Center). A blue dot in a sea of red.

Yeah, it’s got some silly shit like Oral Roberts University. And its progressive power is usually blotted out by blood red Oaklahoma City in electoral politics. But before we go giving all the credit to teenagers on Tik Tok for the sorry-ass turnout at this weekend’s Trump Rally, consider this: Tulsa was a boneheaded, tone-deaf place to hold that rally anyway.

Tulsa is NOT the Trumpy base. Tulsa is filled with open-minded, creative, diverse, forward thinking people like my dear friend Jeff Martin, owner of Magic City Books downtown, who has brought basically every interesting cultural figure you can think of to Tulsa, who sold and gave away a truckload of books by Black authors this weekend, who has been giving out gave out water and supplies to protestors since protesting began this month.

Jeff is a singular presence and a miracle worker. He is far from the only person doing amazing progressive cultural work and organizing in Tulsa.

Jeff brought me to Tulsa a few years ago while I was on book tour. It was one of the highlights of almost a year on the road, a town filled with friendly interesting people, great food, beautiful sites and plenty to do. I would recommend anyone visit as soon as it is safe to do so. And see Tulsa as a reminder that we blue state dwellers all too often think the red-leaning parts of America are an endless sea of small minded bigots.

We are wrong.

Tulsa is one of my favorite cities in America. It’s purple America. And purple America are our allies and friends in this fight too.

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