According to Indigenous artists, activists, the University of Oklahoma Native American Studies and websites that map native lands: Norman is located on Caddo, Wichita, Apache, Absentee Shawnee, Kiowa, Kickapoo and Osage lands. 39 tribal nations dwell in the state of Oklahoma as a result of settler and colonial policies that were designed to assimilate Native people.
Norman, Oklahoma was also a “Sundown” Town until 1967. The land we occupy has complicated histories and I wish to acknowledge that.
I lead in with a land acknowledgment because my childhood was a military one and we lived all over the globe: Panama, Germany, Hawaii and throughout the U.S. South. I’m very aware of the histories in each of these places.
I graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in Professional Writing from the College of Journalism in 2011. I practiced journalism until 2014, which is when I felt the pull of a career shift.
My family and I moved to Norman in May of 2016. I got plugged into city government through the Community Development Block Grant committee.
Through this committee work I learned how to seek practical and equitable solutions — for example, this committee put forth the suggestion to place multi-use, accessible exercise equipment in Cate Park, which is along a bus route in Ward 4.
It was through this committee I learned more about affordable housing, too. I have organized meet-ups and National Night Outs with my neighbors in our First Courthouse neighborhood.
In 2019, I sat on the Inclusive Community Subcommittee. That committee put forth a recommendation that led to a Diversity and Equity Officer being hired in 2020.
Recently, I have worked with community organizers and the city on an ordinance that allows no barrier, 24/7 community fridges to be placed back into the public sphere. I also put work into Norman CREW (Compassionate Response Emergency Workers), Norman’s would-be, first-ever unarmed mental health crisis response, wherein unarmed mental health professionals are the first responders.
There is a great need for transparency, public accountability and compassion. And I know those guiding principles will also serve to inform decision making around sustainable land development practices and zoning, water reclamation, metering and building infrastructure to better meet current demands and set us up for success moving into the future, and how to fund that and more in the city budget in a transparent and equitable way.
My art practice, past journalism and neighborhood activism have brought me into contact with many types of people and introduced me to ways of organizing that are non-hierarchical, seek to meet people where they are at, practice transformative justice and prioritize rest and sustainable working habits.
I know I’d bring a very different skill set and perspective to Norman City Council as a multiracial creative of Chamorro and Mexican-indigenous heritage, if elected.
People are welcome to find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or my website, helengrantward4.com. I have a campaign launch from 4-8:30 p.m. Dec. 11 at Opolis, 113 N Crawford Ave.