A Fair Housing Grant from the REALTOR® Party helped the Bay East Association of REALTORS® bring the author of The Color of Law to a virtual discussion of his work. By opening the event to other key stakeholders and real estate organizations, they strengthened relationships all around.
Across all industries in the past year, organizations have been heightening efforts to make diversity and inclusion not just a catch phrase, but a reality. At the Bay East Association of REALTORS®, whose operating region lies just inland of San Francisco, the board went to the heart of the matter and called in an expert: Richard Rothstein, author of the groundbreaking work, The Color of Law. His book was the featured reading for a virtual book club event that gave members the opportunity to learn about the root causes of systemic racism, particularly in the housing market. Taking it a step further, the association invited colleagues in the local minority real estate organizations to join the discussion, creating a collaborative environment for greater understanding, and a catalyst for ongoing advocacy. It was supported by a Fair Housing Grant from the REALTOR® Party.
Marketing & Communications Manager Jessica Arnold notes that the concept of bringing Rothstein and his expertise directly to the members came from the membership, itself: “When racism rose to the forefront of national consciousness, every single committee and workgroup in our organization was asked to include a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion component in its plans. This was the brainchild of our Platinum Affiliate Committee, and they worked with the IDEA Committee (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Action) to promote it.” That promotion included outreach to the California Association of Black Real Estate Professionals, the Women’s Council of REALTORS®, and the California Association of Real Estate Brokers, Inc., as well as the California Association of REALTORS®.
Over 120 real estate professionals and affiliates joined the October 2021 Zoom call, in which Rothstein discussed his research and insights on fair housing before taking questions from the audience. The association had purchased multiple copies of the book from the author to create a ‘lending library’ in advance of the event, and also required all staff to attend, shutting down the office and bringing in outside phone coverage. The event was recorded and added to the association’s online learning management platform, as one of the offerings in the mandatory DEI training for all leadership.
David Stark, Chief Public Affairs and Communications Officer of the Bay East Association of REALTORS®, notes that the presentation was particularly poignant for the local audience, as much of Rothstein’s research had been conducted in the East Bay area. “We think of the Civil Rights Movement as being contained within the southern United States, but, in fact, the forces that drove it existed all over, including here, in what we think of as a bastion of progressive values. Unfortunately, we have our own ugly history, and for our members, who are intimately familiar with the area, it was a very sobering wake-up call.”
Feedback from the event was powerful and focused. “‘What can we do now?!’, people wanted to know,” reports Arnold. In response, the association provided links to relevant articles and information on upcoming legislation. Engaging its fellow real estate organizations in this substantive program was an important step in advancing advocacy for fair housing, she adds. “Aside from attending each other’s officer installation ceremonies, this was our first serious point of contact. It was clear that we should be working together, moving forward. The event ushered in a new era of collaboration!”
This is why the REALTOR® Party grant program is such a valuable asset, says Stark. “We view grants like this one as investments. We use them to support stand-alone events like the book club presentation, but we build on that to further our engagement with whatever the issue might be, and by forming or deepening collaborations with key partners. Achieving fair housing was never going to be a sprint, and this grant has enabled us to jump-start the marathon.”
To learn more about how the Bay East Association of REALTORS® has become a leading advocate for fair housing throughout the region, contact Jessica Arnold, Marketing & Communications Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 925.730.3277; or Chief Public Affairs and Communications Officer David Stark, at email@example.com or 925.730.4068.