Mauree Nivek Rajah Salima Turner (They / Them/ Theirs / Representative) is the newly-elected State Representative for Oklahoma’s 88th House District thanks to the people. Rep. Turner was formerly the Regional Field Director for the Campaign for Smart Justice, an ACLU campaign focusing on criminal justice reform, and its many intersections. Their life’s works are geared towards fighting for and maintaining the civil rights and liberties of all who enter America.
They are an Oklahoma community organizer, born and raised, coming from a Muslim and Baptist upbringing. In elementary school, if they were missing class it was because they were at an HIV and AIDS Awareness event or LGBTQ+ advocacy event with their mother.
Rep. Turner grew up believing in the power and duty they had to change the world for the better.
They have also worked with the NAACP of Oklahoma, Freedom Oklahoma, CAIR OK, and a number of community-based and student lead groups working in and researching the intersections of racial justice, LGBTQ+ rights, religious freedom, reproductive rights—just to name a few. Working with these organizations, they have researched the history of the criminal justice system and what it does to communities of color, and Black Women especially, and they are just getting started. COMMUNITY ISSUES We are driving conversations in Oklahoma about what inclusive representation looks like. About what round-the-clock representation looks like. Our Oklahoma government consistently carves out our most vulnerable Oklahomans and a big part of that is because the folx that represents us don’t experience the struggles everyday Oklahomans do and fall short of building bridges with the folx that they represent. Growing up as a Black Muslim-American Queer Womxn, in Oklahoma of all places, I shared the collective experience of not being seen or heard by the folks that make laws about our lives, like many Oklahomans that share House District 88 with me.
If I was missing school as a child it was because I was most likely at an HIV & AIDS Awareness Conference or in an LGBT Advocacy workshop with my mother. My mother and my grandmother instilled in me the importance of community organizing early on in life, and a key component of that is bridge-building. One of the key things that I hear about what’s going on within our district, and even more so within Oklahoma as a whole, is that people don’t know what resources are available to them. They don’t know who provides what services and even more so we have so many people that fall through the cracks where services fall short.
In order to do community bridge-building you have to be in the community, and ready & willing to do real work – outside of the legislature. We know that communities know how to fix themselves. The people of House District 88 have continuously risen to the occasion to provide for each other when our local government turned the other cheek.
A key component of representing a community is listening to the community, meeting folx where they are in the literal sense is being a good listener, and being willing to show up. Actively building people power, community listening sessions, conversations, and action based on the things that impact Oklahomans the greatest.
What is the role of government in protecting public health and welfare?
Government please a lead role in protecting public health and welfare – an when they don’t we see how that has deep consequences for society as a whole. This is why we are still battling COVID and have a new found battle with monkey pox. From destigmatizing vaccines, sharing accurate information about viruses like COVID and Monkey Pox, and maintenance of the right we have as individuals to choose our own medical care that right for us. If the government has to power to put all of these things in danger then they also have the power to make these situations better for the people. This looks like better information about the state of our health care in Oklahoma & healthcare opportunities (vaccinations, screenings etc.), not writing & enforcing policies that directly inhibit individuals personal ability to consult with their doctor about medical choices, & spreading accurate information about the well-being of Oklahomans.
What are your views on individuals being able to safely and securely access sensitive medical procedures in privacy and without interference from the state?
A person’s medical Care should stay between themselves, their healthcare provider, and whomever else they would like to know. The government should have no say in the medical procedures that we elect for ourselves, that is private information. Parallel to this, the government also shouldn’t put a bounty for whatever medical procedures we have.
What measures will you take to ensure that every Oklahoman has the chance to participate meaningfully in the democratic process?
We have seen our government through redistricting and gerrymandering try to silence the people because they understand the power that we have. I have published policy that creates an automatic voter registration when you turn 18, worked on policy that allows folks who have been Justice involved to retain their right to vote, and will continue to fight for equitable voting rights for all.
How can we make voting more accessible to Oklahomans?
I named a couple of ways in my previous answer, because I think voting rights for folks who are currently incarcerated, formerly incarcerated, and folks who haven’t touched the criminal legal system in that manner should be the same. So, automatic voter registration when folks turn 18, restoring voting rights to folks after they have been justice involved, as well as folks who are currently Justice involved are big issues that lead to equitable voting rights. Other things that also lead to equitable voting rights are pushing back against gerrymandering, and also knowing that I don’t know every viewpoint when it comes to voting access so listening to any other ways communities could be impacted by voting and accessibility and trying to rebuild that at the state level and local level.
Many Oklahomans experience discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, and other factors; how would you address these problems as an elected leader?
Inshallah, any legislator understands we don’t know everything I do not know everything that every community is going through. I truly believe that what makes the best representative is someone who listens to communities and amplifies the voices who are already doing the work, and finding how we do equitable work if no one is already. Some of the foundational pieces of doing the work lies in the education of our communities. So, making sure we are fighting back against any measure to keep our community members in the dark about Oklahoma’s past when it comes to all forms of bigotry or isolation, like pushing back on House Bill 1775, and so many others, that directly target public education and educators alike.
What measures will you take to ensure that First Amendment rights to freedom of religion, speech, protest, and press are protected from infringement?
Hopefully I’ll be able to continue to work alongside organizations like you at CAIR Oklahoma, ACLU of Oklahoma, Oklahoma call for Reproductive Justice, NAACP Oklahoma and all of our neighbors in this fight with us. We have built a beautiful network of community care and mutual aid that is held together by our deeply intentional actions. I’d love nothing more than to be able to continue that work alongside one of the strongest communities I’ve ever organized and advocated with.
How can our current criminal legal system be reformed to better protect the rights of all persons involved?
There have been efforts to do away with qualified immunity, but I also know that holding institutions accountable is not the only effort to better our communities. Providing community resources also keeps our communities from touching the criminal legal system. I think it’s important that we highlight that the criminal legal system is working just as it was planned. What we have to do now is reimagine and rebuild a justice system that is founded on community resources and care. So many things help build this reimagined justice system like free lunch for our youth, a living wage for Oklahoma’s, a fully funded and empowered public health care system, broadband access in rural Oklahoma and more. Things we should address in our criminal legal system specifically are putting it into Cash bail – it is a predatory lending system that preys on our community members who live at and below the poverty line. We need to put an end to page two convictions, and realistically we should be centering our work on community resources because those will do more good than any cage could ever do.
What steps would you take to adjust or reform our criminal legal system?
From any piece of legislation that we have put forward and house district 88 to all of the community conversations around reimagining and rebuilding justice. Our work is not just the bills that we vote on or get past in the Oklahoma legislature, it’s also how we create intentional and meaningful actions outside of the four months a year that we are in session in Oklahoma. So legislation to standardize hiring practices, talking to our local Business Leaders about why it’s important that we are utilizing and understanding alternatives to calling the police, and everything else we Freedom dream in house district 88 to reimagine and rebuild a government and a society that is based on community and not the demands of special interest institutions.