Many of our supporters know the story of Koinonia Farm, the birthplace of Habitat for Humanity, in Americus, Georgia. For the simple act of being proudly inclusive to all races, residents of that farm were repeatedly victims of vicious terrorism. In the 1950’s, the farm was bombed multiple times, set on fire, and crosses were burned on their property by the KKK. They were boycotted and denied essential goods. On several occasions, white supremacists fired machine guns into the property, even though half of those who lived there were children.
Through it all, the surrounding community was complicit, either in participation or in silence. As an organization, we were born out of the struggle for peace and racial equality–it’ll forever be a part of our DNA.
The struggle continues and this history is still sadly relevant today. We are witnessing as a nation how this racism manifests itself into violence, but it is omnipresent, from criminal justice and profiling to workplace discrimination, and of course, unfair housing.
We are passionate about what we do because we believe that home ownership is the first crucial step towards building security for those who need it, and that the impact of owning a home can benefit a family for generations.
African American families in this country have been and continue to be denied equal opportunities. Our inability to address housing discrimination generations ago still affects families today; our failure to face this problem today will impact families for generations to come.
The history is aptly pointed out by the Executive Director of the Twin Cities Habitat for Humanities, that serves Minneapolis, where George Floyd was murdered–a reality that is so common throughout our country:
“Racial covenants on tens of thousands of Twin Cities homes prohibited people of color from living in wide swaths of our community. Redlining, used by lenders and promoted by our government, further tightened boundaries on where people of color could live and denied access to homeownership. Hundreds of Black-owned homes and businesses were bulldozed to build the interstates, which further segregated other parts of the city. And through it all, police brutality against African Americans was unrelenting.”
Bellingham’s story is equally grim, and contributed directly to the lack of diversity where we live. Redlining designated parts of the city to white residents only, except in the case of servants. Black Bellingham residents were routinely driven to the edge of town by the police and told to leave—a practice that went on until the 1970’s. These racist tactics were not exclusive to Black Americans–Chinese, South Asian, Japanese, and Native American residents were also driven out of Bellingham through coercion, violence, threats and boycotts. It is important to know this history; our world today is a continuation of it.
The lives of Black Americans matter. We stand in solidarity with those protesting for justice. We stand for the parents who have lost their children, and the children who have lost their parents. We stand for those whose lives have been cut short, and for those that fear for the lives of their loved ones, and themselves. We stand for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, Tony McDade, and the countless other Black Americans who lost their lives due to institutional and systemic racism.