The Race Project: Emily Seibel and Dr. Kevin McGruder
Today, we have the first conversation of the WYSO Race Project series. In this episode, Emily Seibel, director of Yellow Springs Home Inc., and Dr. Kevin McGruder, professor of history at Antioch College talk about race and its effect on things like affordable housing and Community Land Trust.
Editor's note: (Transcript lightly edited for length and clarity)
Kevin: My name is Kevin Magruder, and I am African-American. I also identify as black. I am a history professor at Antioch College.
Emily: Well, I am Emily Seibel and I live in Yellow Springs. I'm white and I have been involved in the Community Land Trust movement.
Kevin: My growing up in Toledo is why I am interested in housing and community development. Door Street was the black commercial district in the late 60s and early 70s that was all demolished. My father mentioned that there was a shootout between the Black Panthers and the police in the 60s, and after that happened and the Black Panthers had a chapter office on Door Street. I think it was a way to disperse the economic and political power of the black community. It didn't make sense to me, even as a child, because I knew something wasn't right about that, it was thriving. And so there was a racism I know behind that decision.
Emily: You know, Kevin, that reminds me of our conversation about race and real estate and Yellow Springs being so small that it doesn't have some of the traditional segregation of a much larger place. However, I think that the market forces are kind of rolling over our intentions. I believe that there is absolutely a racial component to affordable housing. People are being displaced. I mean, I see that I have friends who have had to leave, whether it's because they had a Section eight voucher and couldn't find someone to take it, whether it's because things are just getting too difficult to find a job to find a house.
Kevin: Emily, what links do you see between the Community Land Trust movement and racial equity, particularly in the area of affordable housing?
Emily: Well, Kevin, in terms of the Community Land Trust and racial equity, I think that so often in community development initiatives, you know, you're investing in a particular neighborhood if you're successful. Often times the people who you were helping in the first place end up being displaced. So the poverty is not resolved. It's kind of move pushed from place to place. And as community development practitioners, I think it's really important to take a long view of the future and say, what can we do to make sure that that if we are successful, part of that success is ensuring that everyone in the community has an opportunity to stay in the community.
Kevin: Well, one way to think about what a community land trust is is to look at communities where they had successful community development initiatives, but they didn't have community land trusts. And the one that I'm most familiar with is Harlem, where I live. The city was looking at how to turn that around, and they work with nonprofit Community Development Corporations, the equivalent of Yellow Springs Home Inc. and provided them with the properties for free and then provided them with financing. And in some cases, those properties have gone with the market and they're no longer affordable. But I do think having strong personal personal relationships across race can prepare us to work more effectively on the systemic issues in the coalition work that is going to be needed.
Emily: Well, thank you, Kevin. This was a wonderful opportunity to be able to talk about something that can be intimidating but is so important.
The Race Project is produced by Basim Blunt at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices. This conversation was edited by Community Voices producer David Seitz. For more stories from the Race Project visit wyso.org.