A colorful poster adorned with scribbled requests for city improvements — like creating cat parks and better education funding — is the centerpiece of Tulsa City Councilor Anna America’s office. The artwork is titled “Kids’ Ideas for Tulsa,” and when children visit this 1985 TU alumna’s office, they simply grab a marker to advocate for their issues on the poster.
“They talk about the same things the chamber talks about: parks, livability and jobs. It’s a pretty thoughtful vision for the city,” America said. “That helps keep me focused on what I do in this office.”
Children advocacy is at her very core. Her main job is CEO of the Tulsa non-profit Child Abuse Network. America speaks up for the children who are all too often voiceless in the foster care system and in child abuse investigations in Tulsa County.
Education equity for Tulsa children sparked America’s first campaign for the Tulsa School Board. “My kids were getting a good education . . . but, I could see that is not what was happening in all the schools,” she said.
“Everything I have done has been through this lens of how does it impact our kids and my kids,” America said.
Now as a city councilor for district seven, when America talks policy, she doesn’t speak in the abstract. America hones in to the heart of each policy: the people, no matter their political affiliation. “If you put the labels aside and focus on your values, priorities and your issues, we have way more in common than party officials would want you to think,” America said.
America has always enjoyed shaking up the status quo even as a child. In the sixth grade, her “free-spirited” parents decided to change their name from Weiszmann to one of three choices: America, Money or Smith-Brown-Jones. “The kids all voted, and America won,” she said. “That gives you a little perspective on my parents . . . I had a very different childhood.” The name change took on new meaning when her brother became a captain in the U.S. Marines, which made him Captain America.
America was the first person in her family to graduate from college. “I was this dorky teenager who walked into TU admissions off the street and said ‘I want to go to college here.’” Because she was unsure about how to apply to college and for scholarships, a TU recruiter held her hand through the process. “I was so dumb that I didn’t realize what a miracle it was that there was somebody in that office who said, ‘This kid has potential, and we are going to get her in here. We are going to figure out how to get it paid for,’” America said.
America thrived at TU. Impressed with her writing abilities, a professor submitted one of her papers to the TU student newspaper. Soon she became the editor of The Collegian. Encouraged by professors and staff who recognized her tremendous potential, America began to see herself clearly as a smart ambitious student with a bright future. “When you make that kind of change in someone’s life, you don’t just change them,” America said. “You change their future generations. The people at TU changed my life and changed my kids’ lives.”
Returning the favor, America has dedicated her life to improving the lives of Tulsans. From her environmental work with Up with Trees to her public school advocacy as a city councilor, America will never settle for less than Tulsa’s best. “Here on a local level we can have impact. We can change Tulsa. I can change Tulsa. You can change Tulsa.”