Using a soup ladle as a gavel, activist Mark Faulk carried out his first act as official chair of the Oklahoma County Democratic Party Tuesday.
The humble tools are not unusual for the Democrats, now experienced in pinching pennies as the minority party in the Oklahoma Legislature for over a decade, and getting completely shut out of statewide offices in 2010.
But it was different having a well-known and experienced street activist like Faulk taking the chair of a key county position, especially in a party that has continued to hold its activists at arm’s length.
The monthly meeting of the OCDP is open to any Democrat who wants to attend and jump into the process.
Even with that, the usual small groups to meet over the last several years at low tide for the party have fit comfortably in a conference room at the HQ in Oklahoma City.
Tuesday night was different.
That same conference room was packed with people from a wide age span and a broad spectrum of ideas about what the party needs to do next.
All the chairs were filled, folding chairs were brought in and still, people were standing along the wall and out into the hallway.
Rev. Jesse Jackson was the previous chair and was elected at the last convention. He stepped down in early November because of serious illness.
Jackson also participates in street protests. But, he is not as confrontive as Faulk.
That set in motion a series of events that involved officers for the Democratic Party in Congressional District 5 to appoint Faulk to finish the last two years of Jackson’s 4-year term.
Officials had the option of calling another convention, but were not sure if they could achieve a quorum to make an official decision.
As well, coffers for the county party were low enough that a convention would have taken up about half the funds on hand.
Faulk gave a conversational-sounding acceptance speech where he said that his goal was not just to make Oklahoma County blue again, “but darker blue than ever.”
The state party needs to be much more inclusive with more women and people of color running for office, Faulk said.
He said Democrats need to embrace women, people of color and “all values so that eventually the Legislature looks more like we do.”
“Marching in the streets is only one side of me,” he said, obviously addressing the anxieties of the more traditional members of the party.
Faulk is a shock to some who pride themselves on being Democrats, but are not drawn to open, public protests.
Some present asked a series of questions about just how the decision to appoint Faulk came about.
It seemed that many had only heard rumors but did not know the process, which has been followed inconsistently over the years.
The chair of CD5, Nadine Gallager, was present and answered questions about how they went about the appointment process.
There were some heated exchanges between four or five people, and one left in anger.
But Jane Anderson, the new vice-chair and Tom Guild, both longtime veterans of the party, spoke in reassuring ways that seemed to relieve the doubts of some.
Eventually, Faulk offered to provide some written documentation that satisfied the most persistent critic, and the meeting moved on.
Push for Change
The next day Free Press talked with Faulk by phone about what he sees happening next.
“My goals for the party in Oklahoma County have to do with creating a synergy between activism and politics,” he said.
But there is a need for “diversity of tactics and not a one-size-fits-all approach.”
“I want this organization to be as transparent as possible,” Fault said.
As an example, he said they live-streamed the meeting on Facebook which has over 800 views.
Mark Faulk has been active in Oklahoma politics since 2014 when he ran for a statewide office.
He is known in Oklahoma City as a serial protester having been a part of several actions over the years, the latest being the protest of putting a Braum’s store in the place of the Donray building.
He is the author of The Naked Truth an exposure of a fake diamond mining company.
Faulk is featured in and co-wrote the documentary The Wall Street Conspiracy.
In 2016 he was featured in the Oklahoma Gazette as “Best Concerned Citizen.”
He was inducted into the Oklahoma Democratic Party Activist Hall of Fame in 2017.
Faulk is currently working on a new documentary called Voices in a Jailhouse.