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
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
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.
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.