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  • Epworth

The Keys of Access for Every Family

Giving Witness by Michael Martin

My testimony arose during a meeting of the Reparations Committee about the

Black Wealth Builders Project we are engaged in. In the course of discussion, I

spontaneously volunteered this fact: the ability of my young parents, in 1958, to

move from our small bungalow in West Berkeley to a newly-built home in the

then wide-open spaces of El Cerrito was the single event that had the most

profound effect on my life. The meeting participants suggested that I testify to

that effect to you, my beloved fellow Epworthians.

My folks were young. My dad was not yet 30 when they bought the lot (many of

the pioneers found it easier to buy lots and build than to buy houses) on which

our house was built. They weren’t educated. What my folks did know was that

access to better things – better housing, better education – existed in these all-

white places to the north, and that's what they wanted, and got, for their children.

In so many cases, as it was in ours, real estate is key to that access.

I went to Del Mar Elementary School in El Cerrito. When I started kindergarten I

was, along with my older brother, one of four Black students. I don’t remember

being tested, but I had to have been, because by first grade I was among a group

of about ten students who were fast-tracked through an advanced education

program. Remember the space race? We couldn’t let the Godless communists

educate their children better than ours. That gave us the new math. Remember

SMSG? Because of where I lived, I benefited from all this. I wasn’t the only one in

my high school class to go to Yale. Darryl Nash, who, with her schoolteacher

parents, lived barely three blocks away in El Cerrito ended up living just across

the quad from me in New Haven. Getting into the house you want and need is

key for every family. It was for mine.

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