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- Celebrating Alanna! "She is able to see issues from many different angles"
⠀ What do you do at Bellwether? Resident Services Coordinator⠀ ⠀ What’s the most meaningful part of your work? The most meaningful aspect of the work I do is the people we get to serve. I love that I am in a role where I get to learn the life stories of my senior residents to getting to know the many families that live at our buildings. Helping people has always been at the core of who I am, and I am lucky enough to get to do what I love every day! ⠀ What women have inspired you? There have been many strong and inspirational women in my life that I can talk about, but my mom has always been that woman in my life. She is not famous or well known around the world, but she is everything to me and so much more. She has been through so many obstacles in life and has always made a way to make sure she was okay and her children were okay. I can’t say I know everything my mom has faced in life, but I know she has always taught me that whatever life brings you, you can always lean on family, and to always keep fighting for what you want in life! ⠀ What Alanna’s Colleagues Say:⠀ “Alanna is dedicated, driven and thoughtful. She has a way of placing all those around her at ease and making them feel safe and heard. She is always her authentic self. She is a mother, a wife and an RSC and excels at all these rolls while still being genuine about the difficulty of finding balance. She is able to see issues, and conflicts from many different angles, and apply empathy to honest practical solutions.” ⠀ “Alanna is funny, bright and full of life, generous and hard working. She does her job with a real since of urgency and passion. We are all so lucky have her as a team member and co-worker.”⠀
- Celebrating Women's Herstory Month 2021
Bellwether Housing was built and led by strong women who envisioned a more equitable city where people from all walks of life could live close to their jobs, schools, and life-enhancing amenities. This March, in honor of Women’s Herstory Month, we will be highlighting inspirational women of Bellwether past and present. This month we will share profiles of just some of the women leaders who have motivated, guided, or effected change at Bellwether. These women were nominated by their colleagues for their leadership, contributions, and work. Learn about our 40 year history and female founders here: #WomenofBellwether #WomxnofBellwether
- Redlining: How can we remedy it?
This post is part of our blog series about diversity, equity, and inclusion. These posts are written by staff on our Equity Committee and originally shared internally. We're sharing them publicly to be transparent about our internal dialogue, reflections and learning process as we work on being an anti-racist organization. Redlining is an immoral and unconstitutional practice. In this post, we look at how we can remedy these practices. As the United States reckons with its history of racial injustice, the country is revisiting a topic that is a major part of the problem: housing segregation. According to a Reuters Foundation’s report, the huge racial wealth gap is rooted in a system of housing segregation based on racial discrimination that the government spearheaded decades ago, called redlining. What is Redlining? Redlining is a set of racist federal policies that systematically and purposefully prevented Black people and other minorities from getting home loans. Redlining was intentionally created by the government to oppress Black people and other minorities and continue to ensure that White people remain prosperous. Redlining resulted the systematic denial of mortgages, insurance, and other financial services based on a location and area’s default history, rather than an individual’s qualifications and creditworthiness. Banks and federal agencies used red ink to mark maps, indicating neighborhoods where mortgages should be denied. Redlining was weaponized to deny Black people and communities of color access to credit and opportunities. This problem was created by the government and continues to shape the modern American cityscape. Redlining is just one example of systemic racism, and its lasting effects are still present in the U.S. today. Ignoring this issue only perpetuates it. We are all morally and constitutionally responsible for remedying it. Sample of Maps In the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt started loan programs to help Americans buy homes. To decide who got loans, the U.S. government intentionally created color-coded housing area maps based on discrimination against Black people and other under-privileged communities. Maps like these were created by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) and were used to distinguish which people should be refused home buyer loans. Printed in 1936, the HOLC map for Seattle warned investors off of lending to high-minority neighborhoods while encouraging loans to White neighborhoods with racist covenants. Areas in blue and green were considered good investments, while yellow and red were presented as riskier. Green: “Best” – Most desirable neighborhoods; Predominantly White upper/middle class; Easy to get loan. Green areas represented in-demand, up-and-coming neighborhoods where “professional men” lived. These neighborhoods were explicitly homogenous. Blue: “Still Desirable” – Neighborhood is probably still predominantly White, but not as wealthy. These neighborhoods had “reached their peak” but were thought to be stable due to their low risk of “infiltration” by non-White groups. Yellow: “Definitely Declining” – Diverse neighborhoods. Most yellow areas bordered Black neighborhoods. They were considered risky due to the “threat of infiltration of foreign-born, Black people, or lower grade populations.” Red: “Hazardous” – Predominantly Black neighborhoods; Hard to get loan. Red areas were neighborhoods where “infiltration” had already occurred. These neighborhoods, almost all of them populated by Black residents, were described by the HOLC as having an “undesirable population” and were ineligible for FHA backing. What does redlining affect today? Pretty much everything. The Impact of Redlining on Economic Opportunity and Wealth Accumulation: Most neighborhoods that were redlined in the 1930s are still low-to-moderate income today, and still have large minority populations. In the average U.S. city, homes in majority Black neighborhoods are valued at roughly half as much as homes in White neighborhoods. A study from Federal Reserve shows, on average, White households own 10x more wealth compared to Black households. Graph displays median and mean wealth by race and ethnicity, expressed in thousands of 2019 dollars. Source: Federal Reserve Board, Survey of Consumer Finances. Home ownership is one of the main ways Americans build wealth and pass it on to the next generation. For many families, their home is their most valuable asset. As a result of redlining, and related practices, from 1934-1968, 98% of home loans were given to White families. Home equity was the single biggest contributor to household net wealth in 2015, accounting for 34%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The same study showed that homeowners' median net worth was 80 times larger than renters'. Owning a home accrues wealth. So White families in green neighborhoods kept getting richer, while Black families in red neighborhoods were stuck in poverty. Redlining helped the wealthy stay wealthy and the poor stay poor. However, the destructive legacy of redlining has been more than economic. The Impact of Redlining on Education: Laws were eventually passed to make this discriminatory practice illegal. But families in red areas could not afford to move out – keeping neighborhoods and schools separated by race and class. It remains one of the chief drivers of racial inequities that persist today. There are wide, well-documented race gaps in educational outcomes. School quality is a significant factor. Schools tend to serve specific areas, so residential segregation leads to school segregation. Most school districts received money from the property taxes of their district. Therefore, neighborhoods with higher average household income have access to more resources than the lower income neighborhoods. The compounding effects of wealth, race and place means that even middle-income Black students are more likely to attend high-poverty schools, as recent research by Sean Reardon, Demetra Kalogrides and Kenneth Shore shows. This may be one reason why Black children born into middle-income families are twice as likely to be downwardly mobile as middle-income white children. The Impact of Redlining on Health: A new 2020 study by researchers at the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee, and the University of Richmond finds that, the history of redlining, segregation and disinvestment not only reduced minority wealth, but it also impacted health and longevity, resulting in a legacy of chronic disease and premature death in many high minority neighborhoods. On average, life expectancy is lower by 3.6 years in redlined communities, when compared to the communities that existed at the same time but were high graded by the HOLC. Minority families were forced into neighborhoods with declining housing stock, putting these communities at a higher risk for environmental health issues. Due to neighborhood location, access to quality medical care is also strained for Black and other minority communities. Does redlining still happen? The actual practice of drawing red lines on maps mainly took place from 1935 to 1939. Racial discrimination in the sale or rental of housing and related services was outlawed with the 1968 Fair Housing Act. However, research shows Black Americans are still denied loans at far higher rates than White Americans. Today, "redlining" is sometimes used to refer to continued racial discrimination in the housing and lending markets. Redfin, a Seattle-based real estate brokerage company, is being sued for having practices similar to redlining. See the full complaint by National Fair Housing Alliance here. What's the solution? Housing experts say there is no quick fix. Black neighborhoods need more investment, but we cannot artificially raise home prices, or the residents will be priced out. Reuters Foundation reports that Andre Perry, a fellow at the Brookings Institute and author of a new book about the devaluation of Black communities suggests that the solution is to invest in people, eliminate racial discrimination from the housing market, offer low-interest loans and find ways to help renters buy homes. Researchers from the same institution suggest taxation of income from wealth could be the solution to the Black–White wealth gap. Lastly, Jesse Van Tol, CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, suggests that cities could revise their zoning policies to promote more diversity and inclusion. Like many other major cities in the U.S., Seattle has a long history of redlining. Bellwether Housing is against redlining injustice immoral practice in the city. We follow the Fair Housing Law in our work and continue to make our practices more just and equitable. Ignorance of housing injustice only perpetuates it, We are all morally and constitutionally responsible for remedying it. The Equity Committee invites staff to learn more about how redlining and its lasting impacts on their own neighborhoods.
- Building Opportunity Campaign Successfully Completed!
Today we are announcing the successful completion of our Building Opportunity Campaign. We are grateful for the overwhelming support we have received. When we started this campaign, our goal was to raise $9M to build 750 homes. With your help, we have exceeded our goals: We raised $9.2M. We are building nearly 800 homes in four new buildings. We finished the campaign a year early. The purpose of the campaign was to use private support to create affordable homes and more rapidly respond to the housing crisis in our region. Belllwether was the first nonprofit in the nation to use crowdfunding to build affordable homes, attracting 180 investors who ultimately contributed $4.7M. We raised $4.5 million in donations from corporations, foundations and individuals. Thank you to The Wells Fargo Foundation and the Bank of America Foundation who provided lead gifts at the campaign's outset. Deepest gratitude to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Norcliffe Foundation and the Puget Sound Boeing Employees Community Fund whose gifts rapidly advanced our campaign and to Amazon who matched employee giving dollar for dollar. Cedar Crossing, in Roosevelt, is currently under construction. Our 800 new homes will be in First Hill, Roosevelt, Rainier Beach, and Tukwila. Three of these projects, The Confluence, Cedar Crossing, and The Rise on Madison are currently under construction. All these developments are near light rail, transit, and host of other community resources. We are thrilled by the support we have received. Thank you to every one of you who has supported the campaign.
- Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples' Day
This post is the newest in our blog series about diversity, equity, and inclusion. These posts are written by staff on our Equity Committee and originally shared internally. We're sharing them publicly to be transparent about our internal dialogue, reflections and learning process as we work on being an anti-racist organization. If you look at a calendar, you will likely see today noted as Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples’ Day and you may be wondering, which is it? Columbus Day is one of the 10 official federal holidays; this means that if you work for the federal government or an institution that observes all federal holidays, you get the day off with pay. For the rest of us, the holiday is defined based on where you live. Let us explore the history and debate around this day and make a call to action in support of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This morning, the White House proclaimed today Columbus Day, consistent with a joint resolution passed by Congress in 1934 that requests the President to proclaim the second Monday of each October as Columbus Day in recognition of the “discovery of America.” Many Americans recognize Columbus Day as a celebration of the exploration and discovery of our nation. Some Italian Americans recognize Columbus Day as a celebration of their Italian heritage. However, there are others who do not agree with observing Columbus Day and argue that we should observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day (or some variant thereof). Their argument is that Christopher Columbus did not “discover” our nation; Indigenous Peoples had lived here for at least 20,000 years. Furthermore, Columbus and his party were responsible for the rape and killing of Indigenous Peoples and for stealing their land (which we occupy today). The first time concerns about Columbus Day were shared broadly on the international stage was at the United Nations Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas in 1977. At that time, Indigenous Peoples requested “to observe October 12, the day of so-called ‘discovery’ of America, as an international day of solidarity with the indigenous people of the Americas.” In 1989, South Dakota was the first state to fulfill that request when they proclaimed the second Monday of each October as Native Americans’ Day. A few years later, Berkeley, California became the first city in the United States to observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Since then, over a hundred cities and 13 additional states plus the District of Columbia have either abolished Columbus Day in favor of a holiday celebrating Indigenous Peoples or recognize the day as both Columbus Day and a holiday recognizing Indigenous Peoples. Two additional states, California and Tennessee, recognize Native Americans’ Day in September of each year. Despite seven cities in Washington State, including Seattle, declaring the holiday Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Washington State has yet to do so. Call to action! Bellwether’s Equity Committee supports the state proclaiming the second Monday of each October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Although symbolic, this change is meaningful in that it brings attention to the false narrative of Christopher Columbus and Columbus Day, it recognizes that Indigenous People rightfully claim this land as their own, and it acknowledges the trauma imposed upon Indigenous Peoples by European settlers. We encourage you to join us and call upon Governor Inslee to proclaim the second Monday of each October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day by signing this petition. Sources: http://alleynews.org/2018/10/first-declaration-of-indigenous-peoples-day-at-the-1977-geneva-un-conference/ https://www.npr.org/2019/10/14/769083847/columbus-day-or-indigenous-peoples-day https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/36/107#:~:text=Columbus%20Day,-U.S.%20Code&text=inviting%20the%20people%20of%20the,of%20the%20discovery%20of%20America https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/10/a-brief-history-of-everyone-who-ever-lived/537942/#:~:text=But%20before%20Columbus%2C%20these%20continents,for%20at%20least%2020%2C000%20years https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/10/12/columbus-day-indigenous-peoples-day-facts-2020-holiday-trump/5952881002/
- What does "Defund the Police" mean?
This post is the newest in our blog series about diversity, equity, and inclusion. These posts are written by staff on our Equity Committee and originally shared internally. We're sharing them publicly to be transparent about our internal dialogue, reflections and learning process as we work on being an anti-racist organization. Over the last few months, we have been hearing the words “defund the police” throughout our nation. The killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis brought this movement to the forefront in our country. Black people and People of Color (POC) have been murdered at the hands of the police for centuries and people have had enough. We are at a time where people can no longer be silent about the deaths occurring in their families, network of friends, and their communities and are rising up in efforts around our country fighting for change and a different system where Black lives matter. History of policing in America In order to understand how we have come to this moment in our history, we need to understand our past. Where did policing come from, how have policies been shaped by our history to get us to where we are now? Many believe that police officers were figures in our communities since the beginning of civilization, but the U.S. police force is actually a more modern invention, according to Gary Potter, a crime historian at Eastern Kentucky University. In Colonial America, many Northern towns relied on a “night watch” that kept an eye out for people engaging in prostitution or gambling. The first publicly funded police force was in Boston in 1838 where a large commercial shipping center was located, and people were employed to help protect the goods and the transportation of goods from the port to Boston and other cities. In the South, the creation of police forces was not surrounding the protection of shipping goods but preservation of the slavery system. Many of the policing efforts at this time were geared towards capturing enslaved people who had made a break for their freedom and suppressing slave rebellions. The first formal slave patrol was created in the Carolina colonies in 1704. Our country has a long history of using policing efforts to enforce segregation and prevent freed slaves from gaining autonomy. This history is important, as it shows us that many of the early policing efforts in our colonized America were focused on keeping enslaved Black people enslaved. If Black people resisted their enslavement, they were killed or beaten. Given this history of policing and the relatively short history of Black people being free citizens in America, the police force carries a traumatic past for many Black communities and people of color. We arrived at this moment in time where people are rising up for change, for Black lives to matter and for police to be defunded. The Defund the Police Movement It is important to note that defunding the police can mean two things. It can mean a restructuring of the current city, county, state, and national budgets, divesting funds that have previously gone toward the police department and investing money towards systems/institutions that have historically been underfunded. Examples of these historically underfunded institutions are education, social work, affordable housing, medicine, etc. The request is not to completely get rid of the police department or policing, but to reallocate money so that it is not overfunded and money in our communities is going towards efforts that can approach community problems from a different lens. Many believe this would provide better crime deterrent than police, as the police often show up after an incident has already occurred. At its core, defunding the police is a request to rethink public safety. Ben and Jerry’s (yes, the ice cream company) produced an image that really helps create a picture of what defunding the police can mean. Policing in itself does not prevent crime, but is a reaction to crime after it has occurred. The idea of divesting from the police and investing in other institutions is a tactic to fund prevention instead of reaction. 2. Abolish the police all together and replace it with other institutions. Many activists believe that if we focused on funding community efforts and institutions geared towards rehabilitation vs. punishment, we would have less crime and more healing. This could take the form of medics, mental health workers, and social workers responding to emergency situations and having specific training in de-escalation to help rather than police officers who are not specifically trained in those efforts. This form of defunding the police is calling for the entire abolishment of the police force and funding other institutions instead. Personal Testimonies When working on this article, the Equity Committee had various discussions about what the police mean to us personally. It was evident that how we perceive the police can be very different depending on our personal or witnessed experience with the police. For many People of Color, the police are not an agency that keeps them safe. Whereas many white people have experienced the police as keepers of safety. People of Color and marginalized communities are sharing their stories and experiences with the police and highlighting the alarming treatment they receive from the police. These stories help white people understand why this movement has risen to the forefront of American politics. It is about real people, their experiences, and their grievances about a system they do not feel is there to serve and protect them. A member of team (a Black woman) shared a personal story where a neighbor (a Black family) had a disruptive visitor at their home. She describes that she felt the need (even though there were other neighbors watching what was going on) to go and say something to this disruptive visitor and ask them to leave. As one of the other few Black people living in this building she felt she needed to speak up as people look at the Black community as a whole instead of individuals and she didn’t want the police to show up. She worried that if management found out about the incident, they would lump Black people together as causing disruptions as a whole instead of seeing this as an individual problem. Her concern was that they would look at all of the Black people living in the apartment building as disruptors and would not want them to live there. When she asked this person to leave, they left, and she has not seen this person since. She shared this as an example of a time she did not want the police involved as they would likely make the situation worse and not solve the encounter. Philip V. McHarris of Yale’s Sociology and African American Studies Department shared that “growing up as a young black man, he grew wary of the narrative that ’the police keep us safe,’ having been assaulted himself by officers and witnessing the same thing happen to family and friends…that was part of the reason he never once had the impulse to call the police, even when experiencing ’real discernible threats.’” A white, cisgender woman on the team shared that she grew up believing that if something scary happens, the safest step to take is call the police. This only changed after her adult daughter, Miranda* (also a white woman) was in college and had an experience with her close friend, a transgender woman. An ambulance was called to respond to a life-threatening allergy and Miranda’s friend was there to support Miranda and accompany her to the hospital. Instead of accepting the name, pronouns and gender the friend provided to the medics, police and health care workers ridiculed and misgendered her. The workers’ response to a life-threatening emergency added to the trauma that the friend already experienced on a regular basis. As a result of this, and other experiences of her friends who are POC, this team member does not feel safe calling the police in most situations. This lack of trust in the police also comes from the number of times she has seen videos and news about unarmed people being killed, disproportionately People of Color and others in our community who do not conform to what many may refer to as the “normal”. *name changed for privacy Models we can look to Over a year ago Olympia, WA started taking a different approach to nonviolent incidents caused by someone experiencing mental illness, addiction, or homelessness. Instead of sending armed officers to respond, the city dispatches “crisis responders” to diffuse the situation and connect the individual with services—a model now being considered by a growing number of cities across the U.S. Eugene, Oregon, a town of 170,000 people, replaced some police with medics and mental health workers. It's worked for over 30 years. Dallas, Texas has been dispatching social workers to some 911 calls that appear to be related to mental health. In Durham, South Carolina, Durham Beyond Policing, a coalition of community organizations, initially came together to oppose the 2016 plan by the Durham City Council to devote $71M to building a new police headquarters. When they surveyed Durham residents in 2016 and 2017 about how they would spend the $71M allocated to build the new DPD headquarters to keep their communities safe, community members said they wanted affordable housing, healthcare access, good jobs, and better public transportation. The community wanted to address structural problems. Durham Beyond Policing are currently advocating for increases in minimum wages and the formation of a Community-Led Safety and Wellness Task Force to develop viable structural alternatives to policing and incarceration as public safety. Colorado became the first state to end qualified immunity, with many others working to follow its lead. Experts, scholars and judges of all ideologies have begun speaking out against qualified immunity. And members of Congress are introducing legislation to do away with it. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves, to listen to our community members asking for change, to rise up and vote and pursue justice. As African American civil rights activist, Fannie Lou Hamer, noted: “nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” For more resources on defunding the police: Vox produced a video that explains what “defunding the police” really means: How the United States Got Its Police Force Demands of the local Defund the Police movement in Seattle
- A Door to Opportunity
Bellwether Housing has a new look! Our brand refresh was guided by feedback from residents, staff, board members and other key stakeholders, culminating in a bold new logo and appearance just in time for our 40th anniversary. Since our founding, Bellwether Housing’s core belief is that safe and stable housing opens doors and makes it possible for people to grow and thrive. Our new logo reflects that value. The vivid colors reflect a willingness to take risks and stand out from the crowd. The vine symbolizes our impending growth (we’ll build 2500 new homes over the next four years) and our commitment to sustainability. The overall look and feel evoke warmth, energy, and hope. We are thrilled to share our new image with you. Our look has changed, but our commitment to our mission has not. We will continue to create stable communities and access to opportunity through affordable housing. As we move forward, we aspire to cultivate a more vibrant and equitable region through outreach, partnership,
- Anti-Racism Resources
This post is the newest in our blog series about diversity, equity, and inclusion. These posts are written by staff on our Equity Committee and originally shared internally. We're sharing them publicly to be transparent about our internal dialogue, reflections and learning process as we work on being an anti-racist organization. A round up of resources shared sourced by Bellwether staff in July. Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man A series of videos hosted by former NFL player, Emmanuel Acho. Each video is around 5 to 10 minutes and it’s well worth taking the time to watch. The Seattle Times' hour-long panel discussion about racism and homelessness. It is an amazing discussion. The panelists are leaders in their own communities and they delivered so many powerful and thought provoking messages. Speaking of Racism Podcast "You listen to the Speaking of Racism podcast. You keep hearing people say, 'do the work.' You aren't always sure what that means. Let's unpack it together. This community is for those who want to take the next steps on their own personal, anti-racism journey." And for fans of TED Talks, check out: "How to deconstruct racism, one headline at a time" (Baratunde Thurston | TED2019) "How to build an anti-racist world" (Ibram X. Kendi | TedX)
- The Founding of Our Nation
This post is the newest in our blog series about diversity, equity, and inclusion. These posts are written by staff on our Equity Committee and originally shared internally. We're sharing them publicly to be transparent about our internal dialogue, reflections and learning process as we work on being an anti-racist organization. Having just added Juneteenth to our holiday schedule and then taken a long week-end to celebrate the 4th of July, I’ve been examining more deeply the conversations, debates and documents, including the Declaration of Independence, that were part of the founding of this nation. I encourage each of you to take the time to either read the Declaration of Independence, or listen to it being read aloud. As you read or listen, ask yourself the question - whose independence are we celebrating and who is left out? Below are some additional details regarding some of the foundational conversations and documents from the formation of the United States of America that are worth deeper examination given the current state of our nation. Indigenous people – excerpt from The Dilemma of the Fourth of July by Mark Charles (Dine'): The other day I was eating dinner with my wife in a restaurant located in Gallup New Mexico, a border town to the Navajo reservation. Gallup was recently named “Most Patriotic Small Town” in a nationwide contest. Soon after sitting down I noticed that we were seated at a table directly facing a framed poster of the Declaration of Independence. The irony almost made me laugh. When our server, who was also native, came to the table, I asked if I could show him something. I then stood up and pointed out that 30 lines below the famous quote “All men are created equal” the Declaration of Independence refers to Natives as “merciless Indian savages.” The server was concerned that I might be upset so after our dinner the manager of the restaurant came to our table and asked if everything was OK. I showed her the quote and assured her that I was not trying to cause problems. After more than a decade of living on the Navajo Nation, I have become used to such offenses when I travel outside of our reservation. After the manager left, I noticed that another Native couple seated near us had taken interest in our conversation. So I invited them over and showed them the same offensive line hanging over our table. They were astounded that throughout their entire education they were never told the Declaration referred to Natives in such a way. If the poster had labeled any other group of people as “savage,” or if the source of the words was anything else besides one of our country’s founding documents, the restaurant in question would have long ago been sued and the parties responsible for hanging the poster most likely disciplined. But because the targeted group was Natives, the source was the Declaration of Independence and the responsibility for hanging the poster belonged to the restaurant’s national corporate offices; not only is the poster still hanging today, but on July 4th the entire nation will celebrate the message of this poster and the signing of this Declaration. For we have declared it a national holiday complete with fireworks, parades and speeches. This is the dilemma that Native ‘Americans’ face every day. The foundations of the United States of America are blatantly unjust. This land was stolen. Native peoples, Africans and many other minority communities have long been recipients of systemic racism. And the roots of it are right there for the entire world to see, printed in many of our founding documents; like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and United States Supreme Court case rulings. We announce it. We flaunt it. We celebrate it. But the reality is that the United States of America exists because this land was colonized by Europeans who used a Doctrine of Discovery to dehumanize, steal from, enslave and even commit cultural genocide against indigenous peoples from both the “New World” and Africa. On days like Columbus Day, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July, the United States of America celebrates its history. But a majority of our citizens celebrate in ignorance. After traveling throughout the country and educating audiences on the Doctrine of Discovery and its influence on our nation, I would estimate that less than 3% of Americans know this history or understand its impact on the current-day situation of Native peoples. As a nation, the United States of America does not share a common memory, and therefore struggles to have true community. So this Fourth of July I invite every American to start their day by learning about the Doctrine of Discovery. Allowing the reality of the dehumanizing nature of this doctrine to temper your celebrations. You can still light your fireworks and eat your BBQ as you celebrate a hard fought victory over the British. But at the end of the day, I humbly ask you to conclude your celebrations with the following prayer. “May God have mercy on the United States of America and give us the courage necessary to create a common memory.” Black people: July 4 is an appropriate time to remember Frederick Douglass' famous 1852 speech, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" The speech is—for good reason—most famous for its powerful condemnation of slavery, racism, and American hypocrisy. But it also includes passages praising the American Revolution and the Founding Fathers. Both are worth remembering. Here is, perhaps, the best-known part of the speech: What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour. And there is much more material of the same kind in the speech, ranging from a denunciation of the internal slave trade, to an attack on the then-recent Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The key point is that slavery and racism made a mockery of America's professed ideals of liberty and equality. And, sadly, that legacy is far from fully overcome even today. The Declaration of Independence claims that “all men are created equal” and nearly half of the 56 signers were enslaver, and it took another 90 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence to end slavery. The Framing of the US Constitution, starts with the preamble that most of us can recite: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. It's helpful to examine the underlying questions and debates that occurred as this document was being written. One of the most important questions that arose in the Constitutional Convention was the question of representation – how would the states be represented in the new congress. The three largest states (Virginia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts) wanted more representation than the smaller states (Rhode Island and Delaware). Virginia proposed proportional representation either on the basis of population or wealth, eventually focusing on population in the House, with equal representation in the Senate. Another critical question was apportionment of taxation among the states. When states could not agree on how to count enslaved people, James Madison suggested that “the slave population be counted at 60% for both representation and taxation”, which resulted in what’s known as the “federal ratio:” Federal ratio refers to a settlement set forth by congress to deal with the issue of counting slaves towards population in regards to representation in the House of Representatives. The U.S. constitution provides that the members of lower house of congress shall be proportioned to the free inhabitants of the state they represent, except that in each state, three-fifth of the slave population shall be for this purpose considered as free inhabitants. Thus, according to federal ratio, one slave will count for 3/5 of a free man when counting population for seats by state in the house. This concept of “federal ratio” was then incorporated into Article I, Section 2 of the US Constitution: Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. During the debate about representation, Southerners wanted enslave individuals counted in the population, which would advantage them as heavy enslavers. Northerners took the position that enslaved people should not be counted because they were property, which would advantage the North and result in lower levels of representation for the Southerners. When the debate turned to taxation, Southerners took the position that enslaved individuals should not be counted because they were property, which would result in the Southern states owing less tax. Now the Northerners states argue that enslaved people should be counted in the population, which would shift more tax off the northern states and onto the southern states. Each side argued the position that suited the economic interest of those in power (primarily white, property owning men) and not on the basis of humanity and the idea that “all men are created equal”. This resulted in the three-fifths clause of the Constitution, which remained in force until the post-Civil War 13th Amendment freed all enslaved people in the United States, the 14th amendment gave them full citizenship, and the 15th Amendment granted black men the right to vote. Women: Have you heard of the Declaration of Sentiments? The Declaration of Sentiments was written at the first women’s rights convention held in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. Organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and other women’s rights and anti-slavery activists, the meeting attracted more than 300 participants including abolitionist Frederick Douglass. The language in the Declaration of Sentiments was inspired by the Declaration of Independence. In proclaiming that, “we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal,” the Declaration of Sentiments replaced colonists’ grievances against a tyrannical king with the injustices women endured. These included women’s inability to control property, stating “he has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns,” as well as severely limited educational and professional opportunities and—most controversially—the right to vote. The final copy was signed by 68 women and 32 men, many of whom were the husbands or family members of women present. Frederick Douglass, however, was not; the former slave and noted abolitionist was involved in the women’s rights movement until the movement nearly fell apart over questions about whether African-American men should have the right to vote. It took 72 years to establish women’s rights by law—see the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920—and “even when women did gain the right to vote in 1920, women of color were largely precluded from voting by racist local laws until enforcement of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.” (source)
- Introducing Voices for Equity
In 2016, Bellwether Housing started an internal Equity Committee to help inform the organization’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work. Over the past few years, the committee has advocated for internal policy changes, hosted trainings, and shared monthly newsletters with staff. Each newsletter is written by a different member of the committee. Moving forward, we will share these monthly newsletters on our public blog and with our email subscribers. The authors' identity will be publicly credited based on their comfort level - some may choose to stay anonymous. Members of the Equity Committee expressed the following goals and intentions for amplifying their newsletter by sharing it publicly: "This will expand the number of people exposed to additional voices, additional resources and hopefully inspire more action. I also feel the more places we share information this will continue to build momentum to promote increasing levels of accountability." "This move will help to expose others to different voices and hopefully inspire some to action or to at least begin having real conversations while keeping the focus where it needs to be." "I think when we put something to public, it pushes us to be accountable in taking real steps of changing the structural racism in our organization with targets and transparency. It’s a good motivation to stay on track in making long-term change, build momentum, and keep focus in place." "Having content like this more publicly posted seems like a great idea." We hope this series will be impactful and engaging to our wider community.
- Bellwether Welcomes New Board Members in 2020
Join us in welcoming our new board members to Bellwether Housing. All have robust professional experience and share a passion for increasing affordable housing Seattle. Carla DewBerry is a lawyer with K&L Gates, working in its firm-wide healthcare group. Carla represents health care clients with a wide range of legal issues. In addition, Carla is a Certified Public Accountant, with experience working for a large accounting firm as part of a firm-wide healthcare group. Carla has lived in Seattle for over 30 years and raised her two children in this community. Her first experience on a non-profit board was at Capitol Hill Housing from 1986 to 2007, during a period of great expansion and change for the organization. Carla presently serves on several boards. "Affordable housing is important because it supports diversity across our community," says Carla, "I'm excited to join Bellwether's board because there is great joy in being part of something that benefits us all." Kate Joncas is the is the Director of Urban Strategy and Development for MIG, a design firm focused on the built environment. She served as Seattle Deputy Mayor from 2014 - 2017, directing 32 departments, leading waterfront redevelopment and Convention Center expansion. Previously she was the CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association for 20 years, leading a nationally recognized revitalization of downtown with public transportation, jobs, thousands of residents, and a growing, diverse economy. Cambrie Nelson is a Managing Consulting Manager in Accenture's Public Service practice. She works with clients to respond to their toughest public interest and public benefit challenges. Her client work has ranged from process design for a city department's housing partnerships to change management for a tech company's leadership transformation program. Her professional pursuits and personal passions center on the intersections of equity and innovation. She's interested in evolving economic and community development approaches and is involved in the CDFI and social entrepreneurship communities. Previously, Cambrie was the Strategy Director for a civic design firm and a high school educator. Gregg Colburn is an assistant professor of real estate in the University of Washington’s College of Built Environments. In his research, Gregg studies the housing outcomes of households with limited financial resources. This research includes projects focused on the effects of the Housing Choice Voucher program, the seasonality of family homelessness, the prevalence of housing cost burden, and the effects of housing stock expansion. He has published housing research in leading journals such as Urban Studies, Housing Studies, and Housing Policy Debate. Gregg is actively engaged with policymakers, nonprofit organizations, and housing developers on matters related to housing and homelessness in the Puget Sound region. Gregg previously worked in finance in the private sector. Gregg enjoys teaching courses in housing, economics, and finance at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Bradley Karvasek is Senior Vice President of Development at Equity Residential. He supervises the company’s development activities in Seattle, San Francisco, Southern California and Denver. While at Equity Residential, Bradley has managed the development of 4,000 + apartments, 3.0 million + net rentable square feet of residential development, 100,000 + square feet of retail for a total development value exceeding $1.4 billion dollars. Bradley has been in the real estate and development industry for over 25 years. He is actively involved with a number of industry groups, where he has served in various leadership roles.
- We Support JumpStart Seattle
Today the Seattle City Council passed JumpStart Seattle, a progressive payroll tax on high salaries paid by large businesses. JumpStart Seattle lays a path to a new and more robust approach to our housing crisis. It expands local investments in housing without burdening lower income people. We support JumpStart Seattle. Seattle's housing crisis has taken on a new urgency in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Expanded public investments in housing could: bring people out of homelessness into stable housing to promote public health; support struggling lower income families who have had their livelihoods destroyed; and spark economic recovery through construction activity. Our current tools for expanding public investment in housing are inadequate. They are insufficient in scale and put an unfair burden on lower income people. We must use our new perspective in a world turned on its head to reimagine how our community invests in housing. JumpStart Seattle is an opportunity to do this. Before the pandemic, people in our region already struggled to maintain housing. Over 100,000 households in King County spent over 50% of their income on housing. In the past decade, we've lost over 100,000 homes that were once affordable. At last count, more than 11,000 people are experiencing homelessness here. Now, the economic impacts of COVID-19 have slammed low-wage workers. While the general unemployment rate is 15%, it is 40% for low-wage workers. About 30% of Bellwether's wage-dependent residents have their lost jobs. They are now relying on rental assistance programs and unemployment to survive. Lower income families living in market rate apartments have inadequate support programs available. Plus, they are likely paying twice as much rent as Bellwether residents. The pandemic has had major racial disparities, especially harming Black and Latin-X Washingtonians. COVID-19 has further exposed our unfair State and local revenue streams. Washington has the most “upside-down” tax system in the United States. It asks the most of those with the least. Sixty percent of our state and municipal revenue comes from unfair sales taxes. Low income people pay a greater percentage of their income on sales tax than the wealthy. Washington is one of seven states that has no income tax. We have limited tools to offset the regressive nature of the sales tax. Our state's poorest residents are taxed at a rate nearly six times higher than its wealthiest residents. Given the conversations about structural racism, we cannot ignore that Washington’s tax system perpetuates the racial wealth and opportunity gaps that exist between white families and families of color, who are disproportionately lower income. Washington’s tax structure is unfair. It is incapable of responding in times of economic crisis. We are reliant on sales tax to fund critical public needs. During a recession, consumer spending drops and remains depressed longer than incomes. JumpStart Seattle increases Seattle’s investments in housing. As a progressive tax, it shifts the burden away from lower income people. The program taxes employers with payrolls over $7 million only on salaries over $150,000. It would raise $86 million in the first two years, to pay for COVID-19 relief programs. After 2022, it would create over $200 million a year, mostly for housing. This more than triples Seattle’s typical annual investment in housing. This is not a time to pull back from investment in housing. Our current crises call for deepening investments in housing and services. JumpStart Seattle generates new, progressive revenue that supports economic recovery and housing. We support this step toward a progressive revenue structure. We support JumpStart Seattle.