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.”
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.