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An Unofficial but Hopefully Interesting History of the GPOK
by James Branum
The Early Days (cir. 1996-2002)
The GPOK’s (Green Party of Oklahoma) original roots are not certain, but the best known history is that there were two local Green Party chapters active in the mid-late 1990s, the Central Oklahoma Green Party (which later split into the Oklahoma County Green Party and the Cleveland County Green Party) and the Green Country Green Party (representing the Tulsa metropolitan area and Northeastern Oklahoma).
Prior to the formation of a statewide party, Green Party members in Oklahoma (through state-wide nominating conventions) sent delegates to the national Green Party nominating conventions in 1996 and 2000. Oklahoma Greens were also active in petitioning to attempt to get Ralph Nader on the Presidential election ballot in Oklahoma and received wide-spread press coverage of their protests of the state’s ballot access laws when the effort failed.
Greens state-wide also cooperated in the publication of The Greenleaf (a state Green Party newspaper).
The local Green Party chapters also cooperated together to create and circulate a questionnaire to all of the statewide candidates for Oklahoma political office that year. Following the election a controversy arose over candidate (who was later elected Governor) Brad Henry’s statements regarding the death penalty, in which the governor denied that he had authorized his statement in favor of a death penalty moratorium to the Green Party. (This was discussed by several statewide media outlets.)
During this time (and after lots of tireless work by local party members) the local chapters joined together in issuing a call for the Founding convention of the Green Party of Oklahoma, which was held at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds in Norman on November 16, 2002. At this convention the party elected the following members to the state executive board: Rachel Jackson & Ben Alpers as co-chairs, Secretary Danelle ?lastname, Doug Vincent as Treasurer, and James Branum, Alice Anderton, and Brian Wright as members at large. (shortly after this convention Danelle resigned as Secretary and Belinda Silverstar was selected by the executive committee to serve in her place). The keynote speaker for the convention was a sister of Woody Guthrie.
The second state convention was held at Dwight Mission near Vian in May 2003. This convention was remembered for the joyful fellowship held in a beautiful historic Oklahoma setting, as well as the grueling work of drafting a state party platform.
The third state convention was held in the spring of 2004 at the Newcastle Senior Citizens Center in Newcastle, OK. At this convention Branum succeeded Alpers as co-chair, and Micah Atkins was elected to fill the vacancy left by Branum’s change in position. Also in 2004, the party held a “protest petition drive” (gathering a nominal number of signatures as a form of protest) to place GPUS presidential nominee David Cobb on the Oklahoma Presidential ballot. Following this, the party joined with other members of the OBAR coalition in calling for Oklahoma voters to cast a blank ballot for President as part of a so-called “None of the Above” Presidential campaign.
The fourth state convention was held at the campgrounds of the Chickasha National Recreation Area in Sulphur. The convention was notable for its adoption of the so-called “Radical Proposal”, a bylaws revision that abolished the current state Executive Committee and replaced it with a state Cooperative Council, composed of voting representatives from each of the local chapters, as well as non-voting membership by GPOK members who wish to participate. The party now has a Facilitator (Rachel Jackson) who manages the flow of discussion at meetings but no longer has the executive position of Co-chair.
Also in 2005, the state party was accredited as a state Green Party by the Green Party of the US. (a sigh of relief by all Okie Greens was definitely heard!)
In early 2006, the Oklahoma County Green Party endorsed community organizer, Catholic Worker and founder of the Oklahoma Food Coop, Bob Waldrop in his campaign for mayor of Oklahoma City.
The fifth annual state convention was held in Tulsa in 2006. Major business of the convention included the endorsement of the party’s first candidate for the State House, James Branum, in District #99. He received 4.81% of the votes cast in the three way race.
Also at the convention, the GPOK called for a boycott in 2006 of Starbucks in solidarity with the National Lawyers Guild and other groups protesting the firing of workers who were members of the Industrial Workers of the World union.
In 2007, the party held its Sixth annual convention in Stroud, Oklahoma at the historic Rock Cafe on old Route 66. The speaker at this convention was Sean Hough, a worker from the Libertarian Party who had come to work withOklahomans for Ballot Access Reform.
2008 was a hard year for the Greens, with many on the left saying their motto was anybody but a Republican. The GPOK’s membership was split between those who supported a NOTA position and those who thought that members should vote for the Democrat in the race. In the end the decision was made for the state party to not endorse any position in the presidential race. The seventh annual convention was held for second time at the Rock Cafe in Stroud.
One bright note was the party’s endorsement of Fannie Bates in her campaign for OKC Mayor. While she didn’t win, her campaign got a lot of good issues on the table.
In 2009, the party returned to its birthplace in Norman for this Eighth Annual Convention. This convention was encouraging, due to the tremendous and varied work that GPOK members were having in many different areas of common concern. The GPOK also committed itself more fully to the fight for full and genuine ballot access reform.
Our History and How It Relates to Our Future
During its history, the GPOK and its members have been active in organizing on the issues of peace, seeking to abolish the death penalty, minority language rights, gay rights, rural sustainability and academic freedom. The party has also worked with the other Oklahoma Third Parties (as well Independents and a few like-minded Republicans and Democrats) in seeking to reform Oklahoma’s restrictive ballot access laws through the OBAR coalition (Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform).
While we have engaged in some electoral action, our primary work has been in providing a safe and nurturing “space” of sorts, for activists to join together and seek to find common ground.
Sources: This article relied heavily on the Wikipedia article on the GPOK as well as the archives of the OKGreens email discussion list, as well as the personal recollections of the author.