stories from the resistance

Excerpt. Originally published in The Tulsa Voice.

Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes

“When Donald Trump was elected, we began the fight of the century,” said Aaron Wilder, media officer for Planned Parenthood Great Plains and the organization’s political affiliate, Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes. “The election was bleak for us. Pence has a record of being one of the most anti-women legislators of all time.”

Once the results were in, Wilder said both organizations hit the ground running.

“I know what losing feels like as a progressive in Oklahoma, but typically, win or lose, you get an opportunity to take a breath and decompress, relax, think and plan again,” Wilder said. “For Planned Parenthood and lots of organizations, that breath never came.”

Prior to his current position, Wilder was the Oklahoma organizer for PPGP and PPGPV. He said the challenges, however daunting, came on the heels of two years of steady growth leading up to the election and an influx of support afterward.

“Since November, we’ve identified more than 4,000 new supporters in Oklahoma, a 29 percent increase,” Wilder said. “We’ve been able to translate that into real political power for Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes and reproductive rights in Oklahoma.”

In January, PPGPV trained 300 Oklahomans to become activists in the federal fight over the Affordable Care Act. In April, they activated protesters to attend Republican Representative Jim Bridenstine’s town hall. The organization endorsed two candidates, Jacob Rosencrants in Norman and Karen Gaddis in Tulsa, in special elections this year. Both won seats in the State House.

Wilder said the expansion continues with new staff positions open, including the Oklahoma organizer role he vacated. A new health center is slated to open in Oklahoma City in March, with another breaking ground in Tulsa next year.

“We’ve been part of Oklahoma’s fabric since 1937,” Wilder said. “Planned Parenthood Great Plains is strong and isn’t planning on going anywhere.”

Levi Parham

by Pete Lacker

During last year’s Standing Rock protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), Oklahoma songwriter Levi Parham found himself at a crossroads.

He released his 2016 album, These American Blues, with Music Road Records, a label co-founded by Austin songwriter and former Oklahoman Jimmy LaFave and funded by Kelcy Warren. Warren is the CEO and chairman of Energy Transfer Partners, the operators of DAPL.

Protestors demanded Parham and other artists sever ties with Warren’s label. The songwriter called his contract with Music Road “basically like charity.”

“Nobody was going to make any money,” he said. He had never met Warren and landed at Music Road only by way of LaFave’s support.

For Parham, it was a gray area: He had no relationship nor any connection with Warren, only assistance from the label’s small staff. He credits songwriter Samantha Crain for putting the issue into perspective.

“She told me, ‘You’ve got to stand on the right side of history,’” he said. “I had to make a decision.”

In November 2016, Parham opted out of the second album in his contract and made a statement on Facebook, a subtle move with heavy implications.

“It meant publicly separating myself from people … who wanted nothing more than to help me and giving up knowing … I’d have the opportunity to make art,” Parham said. “Jimmy was going through cancer at the time. It was all a whirlwind of emotion.”

Music Road still owns These American Blues, which Parham did not have the funds to buy back. He said communication with the label about the album has been difficult but that his decision was the right one.

“I don’t regret it,” Parham said. “It was the best way I could stand in solidarity with Standing Rock.”

LaFave passed away from spindle cell sarcoma in May. DAPL began shipping oil to customers in June.

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wild heart ranch

Wild and Free
for Oklahoma Today

By Lori Duckworth

Those who visit Wild Heart Ranch, a wildlife rehabilitation facility outside Claremore, likely will meet Pat. Pat looks something like a half-shaven turkey or a miniature ostrich. Curious and docile, she has probably seen better days, but it’s hard to say, because nobody even knew exactly what Pat was when she was rescued in April.

“She was found running around a shopping center with no feathers,” says Annette King, Wild Heart Ranch founder. “We weren’t sure at first, but we know now that she is a Cornish hen.”

Pat’s in good company with Wild Heart’s other residents: several talking birds, a free-roaming crow, the office bulldog, a pig, a donkey, and Keebler the lemur, a circus veteran who spends much of his time snuggling with teddy bears.

With this motley crew of unlikely mascots, it’s easy to see what King means when she says, “We take the odd kids, the hopeless. We fall in love with all the broken ones.”

Wild Heart Ranch began on a lark in 1996. King, then working for an insurance company, started rescuing horses, cats, and dogs. She brought so many to her land that she had to move permanently onto a larger property to care for them and eventually had to purchase the farm across the street to accommodate all her rescues. When a friend brought her a pair of orphaned baby raccoons, she decided to get her wildlife rehabilitator license.

“I had no idea what I was doing, but I had to figure it out,” King says. “The first seven months, I was brought 860 wild animals.”

Since its founding, Wild Heart Ranch has rehabilitated 57,000 animals. King says she owes the ranch’s above-average save rate to Google and help from veterinarians like Claremore’s Lesleigh Cash Warren, as well as some of her own twelve years’ experience as a veterinary technician.

Last spring and summer, King and her volunteers—including her husband Dan Hardt—cared for, among others, baby armadillos, skunk kits, cottontails, ducks, chickens, possums, raccoons, owls, turkeys, and bottle-fed fawns. All orphans are housed indoors at first and, once old enough, are moved outdoors into pens. If healthy, they’re eventually released into appropriate natural habitats.

Wild Heart takes as many as 250 calls per day, and King and her crew refer and offer advice to some and take in animals from others. Occasionally, she’s asked to assist in a capture, and many of her emotional stories are detailed on Wild Heart’s website: a hairless raccoon runt mistreated as a house pet; a wolf kept chained around the neck; and a terrified cougar cub that had been caged and abused.

King worked several jobs—vet tech by day, bartender by night at one point—to fund her efforts, even borrowing against her own home. During a period of financial struggle in 2001, the local game warden asked her to take in a mother dog and nine puppies that had been dropped at the home of Sandy Brooks, then-wife of Garth Brooks. She reluctantly accepted as a favor to the warden and found facilities to take care of the dogs. When Brooks later called to adopt one of the puppies, King explained she wasn’t a dog rescue and gave Brooks the number to the shelter. The pair ended up spending hours on the phone discussing wildlife rehab, and a week later, Brooks showed up to volunteer, sparking a friendship that has been fundamental to Wild Heart’s continuation.

“I couldn’t borrow any money for my facility after the real estate market crashed,” King says. “I was ready to close down. Sandy suggested I become a nonprofit and offered to fund my paycheck and pay the bills. She’s been making that donation for the last ten years. It’s more than incredible.”

On a relative shoestring budget of donated funds, Wild Heart Ranch matches the capacity of much larger facilities. It’s not glamorous and often is thankless, but King says saving creatures like Pat at Wild Heart Ranch is where she’s supposed to be.

The Buffalo Run Casino and Resort in Miami is hosting a fundraiser for Wild Heart Ranch November 4. Tickets are $50. (918) 230-2134 or Wild Heart Ranch, (918) 342-9453 or

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