One decision would determine the fate of an organization rooted in Oklahoma history. Its survival amid a crumbling foundation was a fight that Oklahomans weren't about to lose.
In 1927, the National Conference of Christians and Jews was born and a mission was founded. It was a mission to promote healthy human relations and an understanding among all people. However, in late 2004, the national organization announced it was closing its doors, leaving the Tulsa chapter with the choice to follow suit or find a way to stay afloat.
After a three-month campaign, Tulsa's National Conference of Christians and Jews transitioned from a crumbling organization to a community-owned and independent nonprofit. On May 1, 2005, what had been the Tulsa chapter of the national organization became known as the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice.
After 32 years of service to the organization, CEO and President Nancy Day will retire and be succeeded by Jayme Cox in March. In an interview, Day spoke about Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice.
Q: What is your mission?
A: The Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice is dedicated to achieving respect and understanding for all people through education, advocacy and dialogue, and our vision is to eliminate bias, bigotry and racism in our state, in our generation.
Q: Whom do you serve?
A: We serve the entire state of Oklahoma, but primarily focus on northeastern Oklahoma right now. We are working to re-establish a presence in OKC, where there was an NCCJ office for 50 years, until 2002. Our chair-elect, Russ Florence, who assumes the board chair on Jan. 1, moved to OKC about a year ago, and he's leading this effort. It is our hope in the next few years that OCCJ will once again have a presence in OKC and beyond. In 2013, OCCJ assisted 16,000 people through a variety of different programs.
Q: What type of programs does OCCJ implement?
A: Our programs reach a wide range of ages, from second-graders through adults, and are focused on recognizing and celebrating both our differences and our shared humanity. Our programs are a strong thread in the fabric of Oklahoma, weaving through the decades, touching and changing thousands of lives, and making our city and our state a better place to live.
Q: How did you become involved with OCCJ?
A: I moved back to Tulsa in 1981 and was looking for a job. A friend knew of a position opening with what was then NCCJ and arranged for me to meet with the board president. I had an interview with the search committee and I guess they felt like it was a good fit and saw something in me that maybe I didn't see in myself. I wasn't familiar with the organization, but the more they talked to me about it, the more excited I became. We took a chance on each other.
Q: What inspired you to continue with the organization?
A: The work here is so important, so needed and so urgent. ... It wasn't long until I realized that working for this organization was a calling. It is an honor to be able to serve the community in this way and try to help people learn to live together with their deepest differences.
Q: What challenges have you faced during your 32 years at OCCJ?
A: There are always the challenges our society faces with human relations in getting along with each other and understanding and appreciating differences. That's the reason we exist — to help people learn to live together with their differences. The biggest challenge we faced was the crisis of survival, in late 2004, early 2005, when we were faced with the prospect of no longer being in existence.
However, our board at the time realized it was important for Tulsa and the state to have an NCCJ office. The community stepped up in a big way to show their support.
Q: What accomplishments are you most proud of during your time at OCCJ?