In a new documentary co-created by the Greater Rochester Association of REALTORS®, a young activist-filmmaker states that historic housing discrimination is “a history we were not taught, but it’s a history we deserve to know.” It was that same spirit of inquiry and enlightenment that spurred the local REALTORS® to co-produce the 20-minute video resource in partnership with its community partner, the Antiracist Curriculum Project (ACP). The compelling and accessible content, told through the personal stories of two present-day local families, will be used in various settings throughout the community to explain the ongoing impact of redlining and racially restrictive covenants. A Fair Housing Grant from the REALTOR® Party helped make it possible.
Brennon Thompson, now an analyst with NAR’s Fair Housing Policy and Programs team, is the former GRAR staff member who produced ‘Home: Access Denied.’ “Our amazing partners at ACP had transformed GRAR’s fair housing course, and catalyzed a culture change within our organization, in the process. Their public resources are housed on a site called ResistanceMapping.org, complete with interactive maps, stories, and curriculum materials. We wanted to enhance these with video to further engage students, civic groups, non-profits, and of course, REALTORS®.” The documentary is now on the site, along with a discussion guide and the option of engaging a facilitator for groups seeking a deeper dive into the material.
“It was important that in addition to the two featured families, that ‘place’ has a starring role in the film, says Thompson. “Given the history of the red-lining and green-lining of these neighborhoods, the lives of residents were and are defined by place. We used expert commentary and archival material, including some from the National Association of REALTORS® and GRAR, to show how it happened, and how both government and the real estate industry were involved.
Thompson is pleased by the way the two storylines in the documentary are neither predictable nor simple. “One of the families is interracial, and relatively affluent; the other is a Puerto Rican immigrant family experiencing the effects of policies intended to contain Black migrants decades earlier. They defy our assumptions about a black-and-white world; in reality, the consequences of housing discrimination are much more nuanced than that.” He also points to the optimistic note that the production ends on, despite the grim topic: “The central figures in both narratives, a youth and an adult, get involved and take specific action to confront the inequity they face. They are demonstrating that there is action you can take, and that we all have agency.”
Jennifer Pierson, GRAR’s Director of Professional Development, has big plans for the documentary. It will become a central component of ‘Racist Policy and Resistance / Local History of Housing Segregation,’ the CE course co-taught by the ACP and offered by the association on at least a quarterly basis; she also looks forward to working with the Equitable Opportunity Committee (formerly the Fair Housing Committee) to brainstorm other ways it could be used meaningfully for the members. “I want to use the video as a call to action that asks the question, ‘How are you going to use this information to change your business model, your activity, in the community? Because if you’re really wanting to change, just making a statement isn’t enough.”
The response of one member, Dayna Orione-Kim, bears out the compelling quality of the video, even as someone who had already read The Color of Law and taken GRAR’s Racist Policy course. “I found the visual of the inner loop and the way it separated the inside of the city and redlined area to be very powerful. It broke my heart to hear that this beautiful family in Brighton still feels un-seen in their neighborhood in the present day. We need to do so much more as people and professionals to fix the segregation and racial issues our government created. I was happy to hear that some neighborhoods are working on revising some of the restrictive covenants in their deeds.”
Thompson notes that for a small association with relatively limited resources and time, applying for the Fair Housing Grant was easy. “All I had to know was what I was asking for, and the response was prompt and supportive.”
To view the documentary, visit https://resistancemapping.org/s/m/page/home-access-denied. To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Greater Rochester are working to promote housing equity in their communities, contact Brennon Thompson, Analyst, Fair Housing Policy and Programs at NAR, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.383.1012; or Jennifer Pierson, Director of Professional Development of the Greater Rochester Association of REALTORS®, at email@example.com or 585.341.2121.