In April of 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Within days of Dr. King’s murder, the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 was finally enacted after “more than twenty years of advocacy and opposition” including congressional deadlock.
It was not the first U.S. fair housing law — we saw that in 1866 — but it was the most comprehensive one that did not require the nearly impossible burden of proof to include a demonstration of intentional discrimination. In other words, fair housing legislation sadly did not (and does not) occur by accident, osmosis or without determined intervention and even loss of life.
Then-President Johnson saw the passing of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 as a “fitting memorial” to Dr. King’s life, which was dedicated to the realization of civil (which are ultimately human) rights.
Thus, as we continue to champion fair housing 365 days a year, 24/7 (with April officially commemorating fair housing), it seems paramount that the journey and sacrifices for our ongoing work for fair housing be especially honored as the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday approaches on Jan. 18, 2021.
Let’s start this new year with a new challenge. The following is largely adapted from “Is there courage in the coach?” by Venus Jones, who’s an award-winning poet, actress and keynote speaker.
Dear Realtor, I know life is not fair.
Yet, I expect you to care and be aware.
When I start crying and staring into space,
I want to know if it’s safe to bring up race.
Sometimes stories of struggle can make us connect.
Sometimes I need to know if I can breathe and reflect.
How much about my history did you choose to learn?
Have you been willing to rebuild what’s been burned?
People can be bridges if they have the right tools.
But too many believe being vulnerable is for fools.
Courage leads to advocacy and freedom is the cause.
Allyship is a life-long practice with very little pause.
Activism might look like art or protesting on marching day.
It might also look like self-care and permission to pray.
Dear Realtor, the more you share the better I feel.
Don’t just tell me I matter and hand me my bill.
In the past few weeks, we heard from the National Association of Realtors a “we are sorry” for discrimination along with penance that includes higher code of ethics standards that formally disallow hate speech, harassment, slurs and epithets among members at any time. What a courageous moment!
As we leave behind a turbulent 2020 that has taught us a lot, we have an opportunity to continue to show courage at an individual level. Join the 2021 new year’s challenge to be a J.E.D.I. Defender (with J.E.D.I. standing for justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, a newly popular acronym that seems to have been originally coined by Avarna but I first heard used by my friends at Compass).
If you desire automated reminders, you can opt in to the weekly text updates here, but that’s not necessary or required to be a 2021 J.E.D.I. Defender. Feel free to create your own alerts by adding the following four-week challenge to your cell phone or calendar alerts.
J.E.D.I. Defender Challenge week 1 (Jan. 4 – Jan. 10, 2021)
What trustworthy publication (podcast, video channel, social media account, email newsletter, etc.) will I sign up with this week that promotes the American dream of fair homeownership?
J.E.D.I. Defender Challenge week 2 (Jan. 11 – Jan. 17, 2021)
What authoritative class will I sign up to take this week (NAR’s Fairhaven counts!) that promotes the American dream of fair homeownership?
J.E.D.I. Defender Challenge week 3 (Jan. 18 – Jan. 24, 2021)
It’s MLK Day (Dr. King’s assassination sparked the final passing of the 1968 Fair Housing Act) and the National Day of Service! What credible organization will I volunteer with this week to promote fair homeownership?
J.E.D.I. Defender Challenge week 4 (Jan. 25 – Jan. 31, 2021)
What ethical conversations can I have this week to promote fair homeownership? Hint: This may be one-on-one or featured on your website, social media, email, newsletter, video series and so forth.
Join the conversation by sharing your responses online with the hashtag #JediDefender2021, or please share them here. May the force of fair housing be with you!