Fifty years ago, the Fair Housing Act was signed into federal law just seven days after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in the city of Memphis. As both these events are being commemorated around the nation, the Memphis Area Association of REALTORS® (MAAR), mindful of its particular association with them, designed a program to honor Dr. King’s legacy and bring awareness to the importance of the landmark legislation in greater Memphis. Called the MAAR “Day of Unity,” its impact will reach far beyond the powerful day-long event.
Kate Reddan, Events Coordinator of the 3,700-member association, credits an exceptionally passionate and resourceful leadership with the success of the program, and the vision that brought it into being. “Lauren Wiuff, our 2018 President, along with the Board of Directors, wanted the dual-commemoration to be part of their strategic plan, and to be executed in the most educational and inspiring way, in order to have the strongest impact on members and the community.” Working with Cultural Diversity Committee Chair Cassandra Bell-Warren, Fair and Affordable Housing Committee Chair Deborah Williams, and Blight Taskforce Chair Brenda Hampton, with the support and insight of MAAR CEO Melanie Blakeney, Wiuff developed a plan that incorporated a members’ two-mile Freedom Walk to the Lorraine Motel where King was killed; a Fair Housing luncheon, featuring poignant videos of members reminiscing about the passage of the historic act; and a tour of the National Civil Rights Museum.
The program was funded by a REALTOR® Party Diversity Initiative Grant, and just putting the grant application together, notes Reddan, was a moving experience for all involved. Says Wiuff, “The MAAR Day of Unity brought our membership together to commemorate two historical events: the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act and the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The event celebrated, honored, and promoted unity and diversity within our membership and the city of Memphis, where, as REALTORS®, we are committed to embracing those principles every day.”
A few weeks later, with funding from the same grant, MAAR sponsored a highly successful Blight Forum & Fair Housing Fair. Billed as an opportunity to tackle the topic of blight and anti-blight initiatives with a panel of experts, it drew a capacity-crowd of members, who then took part in the fair, which featured representatives from the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Tennessee Housing Development Agency, the Women’s Council of REALTORS®, Disability Rights Tennessee, Memphis Legal Services, and various lending agencies.
The dedicated members of MAAR aren’t stopping there, says Reddan: the association’s strategic plan for 2018 includes many more activities and events that celebrate diversity, unity, and the fact that “Fair Housing Makes Us Stronger.” In the fall, the committees that have been working on these issues will host a Vision Board event, where members will discuss what they’ve learned and brainstorm ways to carry initiatives forward into 2019.
To learn more about how the Memphis Area Association of REALTORS® is bringing people together and shining a light on Fair Housing, Cultural Diversity, and the progress of the Civil Rights Movement, contact Kate Reddan, MAAR Events Coordinator, at 901-818-2435. Also view the Memphis Area Association of REALTORS®’ Commemorating the Fair Housing Act video series.