Recently, we’ve determined five priorities to guide FCS. Within these priorities, which will help align our work for the year, we determined not to include the idea of racial equity. At first glance, that seems very surprising. However, we’ve made a commitment to view racial equity in a radically different way. Instead of viewing racial equity as one priority among several, we’ve realized that racial equity must influence everything we do as an organization. At FCS, that means that racial equity is a lens through which we view everything else we undertake.
Why Isn’t Racial Equity a Priority?
Instead of designating “racial equity” as a priority, we view it as a value. Why is that an important distinction? Values are broadly applied to every part of our work. Priorities can change, but values should remain consistent. This lens sheds light on all the racial dynamics that inform every part of our work. It brings a level of sensitivity to everything we do. It shouldn’t be anything we ever complete – instead, it allows us to see that we cannot separate it from how we see the neighborhood and our work. Race is embedded in the repair – not a task to be completed.
When we determine new policies and programs, we take into account the lived experiences of our neighbors. Our systems are based in racism, so we can’t undo them without first acknowledging the way they were created.
How Have We Purposed to Move Forward?
At FCS, we’re guided by three principles that help us center this lens of racial equity as we seek to encourage flourishing within every neighborhood for each person.
We understand and recognize that the disparities we see in our neighborhoods are a result of policies that were designed to create them. This includes redlining – an intentional policy that directly contributed to disinvestment and segregation. Systems were not designed for people to succeed – quite the opposite. These policies dictated where you lived, the kind of job you had, the kind of education you received, and your upward mobility. It’s contributed to the growing wealth gap. It’s critical to acknowledge these factors in order to contribute to our work.
We affirm the intrinsic value of Black life and neighborhoods and that racial equity helps everyone to flourish. We have an opportunity and responsibility to dismantle systems that prevent this. This work includes equitable housing policy and practices, creating affordable housing, creating wealth and food access, and working with partners in education and employment. It’s a holistic way of working because it’s complex, and there are many systems that need to be dismantled. We do this in conjunction and in partnership with the Civic League. We’re the co-pilot and sometimes the passenger in terms of where the neighborhood wants to go.
When we seek to act in place, we use the lens of racial equity to inform our forward movement. We want to preserve the culture that’s within a neighborhood and the legacy that brought these people here. We seek to align our work with our neighbors’ priorities to maximize futures and promote flourishing.
We want those who are affected by our work to have a voice in the solutions of this work. If this isn’t happening, we are a barrier and we aren’t giving people the agency they need. It’s not just about the infusion of resources – it’s about the distribution of power. When individuals are empowered, they’re more invested in their solutions.
Have Made Progress Towards Racial Equity in Historic South Atlanta at FCS?
We believe that we’ve been able to promote flourishing in several areas in our over 40 years of existence in the community. Homeownership has gone from less than 10% to 60%. We’ve seen blight decrease, particularly as we helped build or partnered with builders for over 200 homes, with ⅓ of homeowners coming from lower income levels. We’ve helped promote school improvement through Purpose Built Schools. We’ve established Carver Market to strengthen food access and promote employment, and we’ve helped establish Community Grounds (a third space for community engagement). We’ve created opportunities for our youth through neighborhood engagement. We’ve seen our partnership with the Civic League thrive. We’re excited and encouraged by the increase in safety and comfort of our neighbors in place. It’s a great place to start the next leg of the journey.
Of course, this work is never finished. We must work together with neighbors, especially those who have been harmed by racial inequity, to ensure that people can flourish in an equitable, mixed-income community for generations.