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Bringing Up Boley
BOLEY, OK-- Nestled midway between Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Booker T. Washington once deemed Boley the finest All-Black town in America.
"It gave us a sense of pride," said Maurice Lee, a lifelong Boley resident, "to see that people of the same color could run businesses, be mayors, run a bank, and do everything you could in the larger cities."
Lee's family has lived in Boley for generations, he says All-Black towns were born out of hope and necessity, in a time when segregation denied opportunities to people of color.
"Whatever I am today, I am because of Boley," said Lee.
Lee's business, Smokaroma is one of the last remaining businesses in Boley. As you drive around the historic town, you'll see many empty brick buildings, deserted businesses, and a school that's been shut down. Over the last few decades, the town's population has dwindled.
"Your biggest thing is, you're going to need to drive at least 40-45 miles to find a decent job," explained Leonice Mitchell, another Boley resident.
Mitchell grew up in Boley, she left for education and job opportunities in other cities, but always found herself coming back home.
"There's nothing like home," said Mitchell, "I've been to the big city, I've been to the small city, but there's nothing like home."
After moving from Boley twice, Mitchell says this time she's home to stay, she owns McCormick's Grill, a restaurant that's been in her family since the 1940's.
"That's a lot of the reason why I'm here, to keep it standing," said Mitchell.
Mitchell is just one of many Boley residents working hard to keep their town running in a time when many historic All-Black towns are disappearing. Historians say there were once fifty All-Black towns in Oklahoma, but over the last few decades that number has reduced to about a dozen.
"Boley has managed to hang on all these years," said Mary Matthews, Mayor of Boley.
Matthews says although it will be difficult to bring Boley back to the thriving town it once was, she has reached out to some younger residents to map out a plan that will revitalize Boley.
"We're trying everything we can," she said.
Matthews says preservation grants help keep Boley afloat, but the town also relies on the work of local volunteers and former Boley residents who care about their community.
"Come on back, we need you," said Matthews.
Despite challenges that come with Boley's revitalization, many residents remain optimistic.
"Once you're born and raised here, it's hard to get away from it," said Mitchell, with a smile.
Posted: Monday, February 18 2013, 12:09 PM CST
IN OKLAHOMA NEWS
Okla. health officials warn of food vendor issues
May 22, 2013 16:34 GMT
MOORE, Okla. (AP) -- State health officials say several vendors setting up in Moore to help provide food to residents and workers in the area are failing to follow basic health guidelines.
Cleveland County Health Department officials say there have been reports of numerous vendors in the area giving away or selling food for people living and working in the area.
The director of the state health department's consumer health service, K.C. Ely, says that while they appreciate that people want to help, they are finding "multiple food safety hazards."
Ely says a check of several vendors found no means for washing hands, water, screening, overhead protection or other basic food safety requirements.
Ely urged vendors to check in with the Norman branch of the Cleveland County Health Department before setting up operations.
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