A little more than a year ago, I got a call from Gail Fattizzi, the 2020 President of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, asking me if I would like to be on a taskforce to help create the Association's first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. This came as a direct response to the protests that happened last year across the country, and sparked new discussion at HGAR about what can be done to address inequities in the field we work in. Of course, I was honored and immediately accepted the request.
Over the next year, this task force, comprised of amazing and bright minds at HGAR, worked together to form Hudson Gateway Association of Realtor's first DEI Committee. We had workshops with Nicole Furlong, Professor of Practice and Director of the Klingenstein Center and author of Race Sounds: The Art of Listening in African American Literature. There, we fleshed out a mission statement, ideas for where we thought the committee should focus, created a new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer full time position at the association, and a solid foundation of what the DEI Committee structure would look like.
At certain points, I would be sitting in these meetings, workshops and interviews thinking, I can't believe I'm actually here right now, part of the discussion. As we progressed further and further into forming this Committee, I saw a truly unique opportunity that we have as an association of 13,000 members in a geographically important area to analyze ourselves and our communities to identify and address systematic issues built into the real estate machine that we are all a part of.
One of the questions that I've come across asking myself often is, "how does this differ from the Fair Housing Committee that the Association already has?" And over time, I was able to figure out what that answer was, to me at least. After reading books and articles (two of which stood out to me: Richard Rothstein's The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America and Critical Race Theory: An Introduction by Jean Stefancic and Richard Delgado), watching videos, participating in the formation of this committee, I noticed that Fair Housing focuses quite firmly on how to solve problems that exist in the world and the system that we live in today. Through policy work and building on the existing format, Fair Housing attempts not necessarily to right the wrongs of the system, but to add in new parts that protect those that need it.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (to me), looks at the actual machine itself and identifies the systematic issues that caused such inequality in the first place. As an example, while African American family wages are roughly only 60% of their white counterparts, you would think that the wealth comparison would be the same, that black families have 60% of wealth compared to white families. It's 5%. Black families have 5% of the wealth when compared to white families, largely due to their inability to generate generational wealth through real estate. Well, why is that? Why are they unable to do so? What exactly in the system that was built prevented them from participating? How do we solve those issues? These are the kind of questions that DEI should focus on, in my opinion. How do we resolve these fundamentally broken ideologies?
Now, that's just one example, and in that example I gave, I exclude all of the intersectionalities of our nation. How are Latinos affected? Asian Americans? Black trans women? DEI, in my opinion, observes all of these.
Roughly a year later, in July of 2021, the task force conducted interviews for candidates to serve on the newly founded DEI Committee and voted on which candidates to appoint. A week or so after that, I received a call from Crystal Hawkins-Syska, the current 2021 President of HGAR. She asked me if I would like to serve as the co-chair of this committee along with Christina Stevens, a truly amazing person I've come to know. She asked me, along with Christina to not only guide this new committee, but to design the tracks that it would run on, and create the vision and focus of this committee. To say I was taken aback is an understatement. I did not even consider myself as an option to be considered for this position, and thought that there would be a handful of other people much more qualified to do this. I humbly accepted Crystal's nomination and sat down and took a minute to fully comprehend what just happened. I still, even now after finishing our first official meeting as a committee, can't believe the opportunity that I've been given. I couldn't be happier to be sharing this with Christina Stevens, and with Freddimir Garcia, the association's new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer who has been an amazing help.
I just want to thank every single person who has helped create this committee, and who has helped me grow into this leadership position. Huge shoutout to the Leadership Accelerator Program at HGAR and all who helped create that, without it, I don't know if I'd be writing this blog right now. I am extremely excited and optimistic about what the future holds and can't wait to be a part of this new chapter at the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors.
As always, thanks for listening,
Licensed Real Estate Salesperson
J Philip Real Estate