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Freedom Walk in Memphis Links Fair Housing with MLK

Memphis Area REALTORS® organize a Day of Unity to both remember Dr. King as well as commemorate 50 years of the Fair Housing Act.

By Anthony SanFilippo

Getting motivated in Memphis to commemorate the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was not a difficult thing for the Memphis Area Association of REALTORS® (MAAR).

What was harder, was deciding how to do it, and when – especially since it was also the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.

That’s when MAAR President Lauren Wiuff had an idea – commemorate both at the same time.

Wiuff got together with MAAR CEO Melanie Blakeney, Fair and Affordable Housing Committee Chair Deborah Williams, Cultural Diversity Committee Chair Cassandra Bell-Warren, Blight Task Force Committee Chair Brenda Hampton and MAAR Events Coordinator Kate Reddan for a brainstorming session.

The result, was the MAAR Day of Unity – which was done to both remember Dr. King as well as commemorate 50 years of the Fair Housing Act.

“Each committee chair had a vision and NAR had some guidelines that we wanted to follow,” Reddan said. “The Fair and Affordable Housing Committee wanted to have it centered around a tour of our Civil Rights Museum with videos where we interviewed REALTORS® who were practicing 50 years ago. The Cultural Diversity Committee wanted to have an all-day Freedom Walk. The Blight Task Force wanted to provide courses and education. That’s when Lauren said, ‘why don’t we do parts of all three.”

And so it was. The MAAR Day of Unity took place on March 28, with 100 MAAR members taking part.

The number 100 was targeted specifically – and achieved. The idea was to have one person representing each of the years since the passing of the Fair Housing Act and one person representing each year since the assassination of Dr. King.

And despite Mother Nature not really cooperating with the event, it went off without a hitch.

Rather than an all-day Freedom Walk, it was narrowed down to a two-mile trek from the Metropolitan Intra-Faith Association (MIFA) to the Civil Rights Museum. Reddan worked with the city of Memphis to secure permits for this peaceful sojourn.

“It wasn’t a march,” she said. “That’s important to understand. It wasn’t a protest or political in nature at all. It was a reminder of where we came from and where we are still going.”

Once at the Civil Rights Museum, the group took a tour, and then met at a neighboring restaurant for a luncheon, where the videos that were discussed in the brainstorming session were shown.

“It was all pretty impactful,” Reddan said. “There we were, all wearing the same t-shirt, walking the streets, learning about our civil rights history, eating lunch together and watching those great videos – it was really a day of unity and it was really powerful.”

But the commemoration of the Fair Housing Act didn’t stop there.

A little more than a week later, MAAR leadership was present when Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell signed a joint proclamation recognizing April as Fair Housing Month in both the city and the county.

Then, on April 17, MAAR held a Blight Forum and Fair Housing Fair at the MAAR education center.

A capacity crowd of 110 MAAR members attended to engage with the Blight Forum panel that consisted of Daniel Schaffzin, the co-director of the University of Memphis School of Law’s Neighborhood Preservation Clinic, Amy Schaftlein, the Executive Director of United Housing, Shelby County Trustee David Lenoir and Steve Lockwood, Executive Director of the Frayser Community Development Corporation.

The Fair Housing Fair consisted of representatives from the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), the Women’s Council of REALTORS®, Disability Rights Tennessee, Memphis Area Legal Services, Community/Crump Mortgage, Independent Bank, United Housing, THDA, and the Frayser and Orangemound Community Development Corporations.

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