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'Focus: Black Oklahoma': Kasey Alerts, after-school programs, criminalizing homelessness

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Jamie Glisson
Focus: Black Oklahoma

This episode of Focus: Black Oklahoma features stories on the FCC considering a new way to alert the public when adults go missing, the end of funding for some after-school programs and a new state law criminalizing homelessness.

The Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, considers a new way to alert the public when adults go missing. The tool looks a lot like the Kasey alerts that launched five months ago as a way to address the Missing & Murdered Indigenous People, or MMIP, crisis in Oklahoma. Both are similar to the AMBER alert & Silver alert system. KOSU's Sarah Liese reports on how the Kasey Alerts system is doing & what the new FCC tool could mean for Indigenous Nations throughout the U.S.

At the end of April, Governor Kevin Stitt signed Senate Bill 1854 into law, criminalizing homelessness with the potential to incur misdemeanors & face a possible 15 days in jail. The new law, taking effect in November, does not provide new funding for housing Oklahomans without shelter. While Stitt & some Republicans tout the bill as a means for public protection, some Democrats say it will only amplify the problems unhoused Oklahomans face, as well as add to already overburdened & overcrowded jails across the state. Shonda Little speaks with State Representative Forrest Bennett & a former unhoused Oklahoman about the law.

During the pandemic, schools received a big boost from the federal government through the Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, or ESSER Fund. ESSER Funds are scheduled to end soon. StateImpact’s Beth Wallis reports, when that money ends, so may the after-school programs made possible by those funds.

The recent recall election of Judd Blevins in Enid, which received national attention for his alleged ties with Nazi & white supremacist groups, led to a win for Republican challenger, Cheryl Patterson. All while Garfield County gears up for elections to be held on June 18. The Garfield County District One Commissioner seat is open, as current Commissioner Marc Bolz stepped down. Three candidates are running for that position; Chris Bigbey, Assistant Lead County Foreman & Assistant Volunteer Fire Chief in Covington, sat down with Venson Fields, while Joe Kegin and Jamie Hedges did not respond to an interview request. In the race for Garfield County Court Clerk, the current Court Clerk, Janelle Sharp, was run against challenger Kathy Voth, the current Accounts Manager for the Garfield County Criminal Justice Authority. Voth discusses her first campaign experience & what made her decide to run for office with Fields. Sharpe was unavailable for comment.

Colon cancer is a major concern, especially for higher risk groups, like BIPOC communities. Zaakirah Muhammad speaks with local experts Dr. Christina Booth, University of Oklahoma's Associate Professor of Surgery & Chris Evans, president of the Colon Cancer Coalition, who emphasize early detection & addressing risk factors. While Katherine Anderson, the virtual director at City of Hope (formerly known as Cancer Treatment Centers of America), & Dee Terrell, Associate Professor at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, & Assistant Dean at the Hudson College of Public Health, & Alana Woodson, Dallas based co-creator at the Rare Company Collective speak about the colon cancer experience & mitigation.

Thinking about protecting the environment, most of us focus on nature — plants, animals, ecosystems... For Michelle Cullom, it goes deeper. She sees it as protecting human life & spirit. From childhood vacations, bomb biscuits, & family rivalries, she connects everything through the nurturers keeping her safe. Michelle's story shows how maternal protectors guided her sometimes "boujee" journey.

Focus: Black Oklahoma is produced in partnership with KOSU Radio and Tri-City Collective. Additional support is provided by the Commemoration Fund.

Our theme music is by Moffett Music.

Focus: Black Oklahoma’s executive producers are Quraysh Ali Lansana and Bracken Klar. Our associate producers are Smriti Iyengar and Jesse Ulrich.

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