“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
– Letter from a Birmingham Jail
On Monday, January 17, 2022 we commemorated the birthday, life, and work of one of the most prominent African-American civil rights activists, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Many remember King as a Civil Rights Movement leader, but fewer are familiar with the role he played in the fair housing movement. During King’s time, black Americans were systematically excluded from living in certain areas. This process of redlining relegated black people to low-income areas with poor quality housing. In his role as a Civil Rights leader, King recognized that housing was a core component of racial injustice in the United States and decided to take action!
In the late 1960s, King began leading a campaign to advocate for open housing, to grant black Americans to buy homes anywhere. After King’s assassination, The Fair Housing Act was enacted in honor of his work and made it illegal to discriminate in the buying, selling, or renting of housing because of a person’s race, color, religion, or national origin. It has been over 50 years since the passing of The Fair Housing Act and there is still a lot of work to be done. While we have made strides, the need for such advocacy has far from disappeared – especially within black and brown communities. As we wrap up our celebrations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. let us not leave behind some of the lessons he taught us. Let’s carry King’s message of “whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” Let that message frame how and why you work to aid the people who are living in the communities that we collectively serve.