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Reflections on our journey to taking reparative action

Reparations Action Group - Update September 2023


“What would authentic, meaningful, reparative action look like for Epworth–collectively as a

church and as individual congregants?” This is the question the Reparations Action Group

explored for a number of months, as well as how to extend this conversation within our

broader church community.


The Reparations Action Group is the latest iteration of what began as “Truth and Racial

Reckoning” that formed in May/June 2020 in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, and led to a

number of short- and long-term efforts to raise Epworth’s collective racial consciousness and

pursuit of justice. The group met monthly from May-October 2022 using the Faith and

Reparations Toolkit from the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity.


After this period of study and reflection, we felt a groundswell of commitment and energy to

focus on taking reparative action as a congregation and as individuals as we live out our

commitment to being an anti-racist, justice-seeking church. We are now seeking the

congregation’s support in partnering with the Black Wealth Builder’s Fund as part of the Fall

Stewardship Drive. Over time, we intend to pursue a number of reparative actions in

partnership with Epworth’s other Racial Justice Action efforts as we live out our commitment to

being an anti-racist, justice-seeking church.


Summary of the Black Wealth Builder’s Fund


The Black Wealth Builders (BWB) Fund is a reparations project launched by Arlington

Community Church (UCC) in 2021. The fund is intended to address the racial wealth gap and

repair a small portion of the financial damage of racist and discriminatory policies—in

particular, the longstanding barriers to Black homeownership. The Black community has been

shut out from this major source of generational wealth through segregation, redlining, adverse

(or nonexistent) mortgage terms, loan application rejection, and so on.


History & Context:

The Black Wealth Builders Fund was conceived after many months of prayer, study, and

conversation. Rev. Barry Cammer and Susan Russell, who were part of a racial reckoning group

at their church, Arlington Community Church (UCC), committed to action on a personal level. In

conversation with Maeve Brown, Esq., Executive Director of Housing and Economic Rights

Advocates; Nikki Beasley, Executive Director of Richmond Neighborhood Housing Services; and

other African American community members, including bankers and Richmond City Council

members; they learned that a major barrier to homeownership, especially in the high-priced

Bay Area, is the lack of a sufficient down payment. This is especially true for Black homebuyers,

who are otherwise financially prepared to become homeowners, but lack the access to the

generational wealth or family support that many of us have benefited from in making a down

payment.


How the Fund Works:

The Black Wealth Builder’s Fund provides zero-interest loans of up to $20,000 for down

payments that don't have to be paid back unless the home is refinanced or sold. To date, over

$330,000 has been raised from a variety of sources: “seed” gifts and donations from private

individuals, associations, and a special Lenten offering in 2021 by several East Bay churches. The

goal is to sustain the fund through new and recurring donors, e.g. individuals, churches, realtor

organizations, and other community organizations. Repaid loans will flow back into the fund,

ready to assist other homebuyers.


Partnership:

The Black Wealth Builder’s Fund is housed with and administered by the Richmond Community

Foundation (now known as RCF Connects) through a Donor Advised Fund. Over half of RCF’s

board of directors is African American. RCF Connects, in turn, partners with Richmond

Neighborhood Housing Services, who identifies and screens applicants, and helps potential

buyers get ready for homeownership by providing classes, counseling, access to lenders, and

connections with realtors. Richmond Community Foundation writes a check from this fund to

the qualified applicants. So far, the fund has disbursed $275,000 in loans to 21 Black first-time

homebuyers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.


How to support the fund:

Make a commitment for 2023 and/or 2024 using the Commitment card for the Fall Stewardship

drive and return it to Epworth by Commitment Sunday, November 19, 2023. We invite you to

make a one-time contribution of “Seed Funding” to the Black Wealth Builder’s Fund by

December 31, 2023 and/or commit to ongoing “Sustaining Support” in 2024.

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