Rina Risper, President & Publisher of The New Citizens Press
(Pandemic photo 2022)
My Tulsa, Oklahoma visit was eye-opening. Black Owned Media Weekend was one of the first events that I was so excited to attend. The trip came together in two weeks. I was packed and ready to go with my face mask in hand. It was the first time that I would be in a room with other media owners who looked like me. I was up at 4:00 am and at the Lansing airport for my 7:00 am flight. My stomach rumbled with curiosity as I passed the new restaurant at the Lansing International Airport to find a seat and wait for my plane to board. My flight went well, and I was grateful for no cancellations.
The second leg of my flight started in Chicago. I sat next to a man named John. He told me that he had been in Alaska visiting his son. He lives in Oklahoma, but his accent dripped like dew on a blade of grass. He sounded very “Texas” and yes, I know that Oklahoma is close to Texas. However, I did not expect it. I did not know what to expect from this trip.
John said he had to take his son several guns. At that point I should have known but how could I give up the opportunity to tell him that I was going to Black Owned Media Weekend and that I was staying in downtown Tulsa.
He perked up quite a bit when I said that. He looked at me sternly and with concern, in his voice, he told me how dangerous it was in Tulsa. I just smiled as he sternly mentioned that I should be careful and that he hoped I bought a gun with me. I believe in the right to carry but I thought, “This guy is a nut.”
He flipped his baseball cap a little higher so I could see how serious he was. I just started smiling more. I wanted to start chuckling and then I remembered where I was and no one knew me or who I was. Besides we were in such close proximity so I decided to just absorb the conversation.
He went on about gun ownership as if I was going to argue with him about it. I did not. I just smiled at him. He told me that he lived about 45 minutes from the airport as if I knew what to conceptualize. I assume it meant he did not live by many minorities.
I told him my late father was a police officer and I grew up with guns and have a healthy respect for them as I stared into his unwavering crystal blue eyes.
He was uncomfortable and straightened his worn baseball cap and dozed off. When the pilot said we were approaching Tulsa and I could barely contain my excitement.
I said goodbye to John and did the “on my way to baggage claim walk.” Next time, I will walk slower and just enjoy my steps. I beat my bag there. I immediately went to the information desk and they called my hotel to pick me up.
I asked, “Where do they sell the Black-owned newspapers here?” I almost wanted to get a cough drop for the elderly lady and she spit out, “My goodness, I don’t know. No one has ever asked me that.” The word “that” was said with an elongated twang and I started smiling again.
I saw John and his wife picking up their rifles from the safety of the Tulsa airport office. I wondered why he did not tell me about his personal rifle collection he had taken to Alaska.
It was cool in Michigan when I left so I was wearing a jean jacket. When the airport’s automatic double doors opened there was a weird mugginess infiltrating the baggage area where people weren milling about. I thought “orange bag, orange bag” as I impatiently waited for the carousel to make a rotation. My bag finally was spotted, and I made my way to the double doors to wait for my ride outdoors.
When my body finally figured out that it was a sweltering hot day, I started to sweat like a condensing window. Whatever kind of hotness this was, I wanted to have no parts of it. I peeled my jacket off of my body, tucked it into my suitcase handle and found a bench to sit on.
I looked around and there were no flowers, minimal greenery, and not a breeze to be felt. It was hot. And just when I thought I could smell my kidneys cooking, the air-conditioned hotel van rode up.
The driver said, “May I help you with your bags? My name is Martin.”
I quickly said, “Yes, please.”
I sat back in the coolness of the vehicle and asked how long it would take. Martin said about twenty minutes. There was soft jazz playing, and I closed my eyes and sort of snoozed before we arrived at the hotel.
This will be continued…