Grit and Hard Work Prevail
(He, Him) is 26
Jose Vega is the program director Oklahomans for Equality (OkEq) and the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center. Oklahomans for Equality seeks equal rights for LGBTQ individuals. Jose has been involved with OkEq for five years, first as a volunteer, then as an advisory board member and subsequently as staff.
Jose’s friends and colleagues describe him as engaging, resilient, hard-working and optimistic. People who meet him are immediately impressed with his kind nature and willingness to help. Jose also serves on the Advisory board of the Tulsa Community Service Council Power of the Families Project and Planned Parenthood.
At OkEq, Jose has transformed many aspects of this nonprofit and has revolutionized its communication and outreach through social media and video, moving from a simple email newsletter to videomails that are full of energy and insight. Jose serves on the Hispanic Affairs Commission as Vice Chair where he advocates for LatinX individuals as he sees equality and intersectionality in the broadest sense. He is passionate about inclusion and diversity, eliminating homophobia, advocating for LGBTQ hate crime, employment and public accommodation protections and rights, as well as education and community relations. Jose is also chair of the Social Media Committee of the Anti-Bullying Coalition. He sees long-term success in unity across diverse communities.
Jose’s belief in collaboration to address community issues is real. Recently, to address the shortage of diverse LGBTQ individuals in community and business leadership roles Jose created a new partnership between OkEq and Leadership Tulsa. Jose says this collaboration will provide programming designed to educate participants about the legal and institutional discrimination faced by LGBTQ people. The initiative will also prepare participants to be an advocate for themselves and others in their communities and workplaces.
Additionally, Jose is the director of the Equality Business Alliance, designed to strengthen LGBTQ-welcoming businesses in the Tulsa community. The EBA maintains a directory of Tulsa area LGBTQ-welcoming businesses, creates regular business networking opportunities and creates professional forums where LGBTQ-welcoming business can have their voices heard on important business and quality of life issues. The EBA fosters a sharing of information, ideas, contacts, products and services, and also strengthens and expands business, careers and community.
Through his work and advocacy, Jose is committed to making Tulsa a kinder, more welcoming city. He is a service leader who has been on his own since he was 15 years old after telling his father he was gay. He couch-surfed through his high school years and lived with relatives on and off. He worked a full-time job and a part-time job all while a full-time high school student. Through grit and hard work, he graduated a year early and finished college without any family assistance.
One of Jose’s major accomplishments was the renaming of a stretch of 4th Street in downtown Tulsa in front of the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center to Pride Street in advance of the 2018 Pride Festival. He is the youngest Tulsa Pride Director in history, directing the festival since 2015 at age 23. Jose says, “all I want is to make my city a more welcoming city for our LGBTQ community, motivate others to help and give back.”