OKLAHOMA CITY - The Bridge Conference held Thursday brought together a variety of community members to better understand why some Oklahoma City populations are not living as long as others. People living in certain zip codes in the city have an 18-year lower life expectancy than their neighbors, but the people attending the conference aim to change that. 

The Lynn Institute’s President Karen Waddell pledged to the crowd, “Northeast Oklahoma City will be a preferred living destination featuring safe and beautiful places to live, work and be healthy. And as my mother used to say, when you stand up in front of God and everybody and say you’re going to do something, you’d better do it.”

2026 is the goal date to make significant improvements in northeast Oklahoma City. Organizers of the Bridge Conference and partner agencies show that not only is poverty affecting the health of residents there, even the local plant life has an impact.

This event brings awareness to people with the resources to help, allowing some to open their eyes to their own privilege.

Panelist and attorney Justin King said, “We have to think about, what really did I do to receive the gift that I’m getting?”

The organizers point out that when you know someone facing adversity instead of seeing it from a safe distance, you will actually care. Inclusion and diversity specialist Tahira Taqi spoke on a panel about her experiences being a Muslim and wearing a hijab in America after 9/11.

She said to the audience, “At the age of 7, I’m already being told, you’re a bad person. You are not valued. We don’t want people around you, so that has led into a lifelong journey of trying to understand this identity based on people’s perceptions that I don’t have control over.”

The conference will move forward with projects funded by new contributors to the northeast community, which will foster healthier citizens for the entire city.

Taqi adds, “Inclusion is just making sure that everyone feels loved, everyone feels valued, everyone feels accepted and everyone has resources in order to succeed in their

To learn more about the goals of the Bridge Conference, email info@strongertogetherokc.com.

Editor’s Note: News 9 is part of a local initiative that brings all of our local media outlets together to give Oklahoma a United Voice in promoting a healthy dialogue on race. To see more stories, visit UnitedVoiceOK.org.