On Saturday, April 6, a 40-member focus group; a coterie of Black financial experts, tax consultants, bankers, lawyers and realtors; members of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Black Real Estate Board; and a Congregationalist preacher gathered early in the morning at the Nazarene Congregational United Church of Christ in Bedford-Stuyvesant to deal with a vital issue that has devastated Black communities in Brooklyn, Harlem, Southeast Queens, the Bronx, Westchester County and Long Island.

The issue is simple–keeping property in the family!

Most of us knows someone who has a heartbreaking testimony about a matriarch or a patriarch of a hardworking family who works hard and makes sacrifices to acquire valuable real estate; they then grow older and pass the asset down to the next generation, but all too often, the property is lost to the clan because of unpaid taxes or water bills accumulated after the owners death, or it’s sold for pennies on the dollar to a financial predator who puts up signs with deceitful, attractive incentives, such as, “We buy houses for cash!”

This problem existed in our communities in the metropolitan area and nationally before there was ever a foreclosure crisis, and it has caused poverty, homelessness, displacement and the loss of political strength in important historic bastions of Black empowerment. Bedford-Stuyvesant and Harlem will become more diverse; with real estate prices rising and investment dollars flowing, people from far and diverse places will come. They will be from a diversity of backgrounds and ethnicities, and that is a good thing. However, all fair-minded people should agree that longtime residents who have made these communities great in the lean times should not be displaced because of ignorance or a lack of understanding of how to transfer this important asset down to their descendants, and we are committed to making sure they have the knowledge and access to caring Black professionals who understand that becoming landless is not simply an economic issue, but a political one as well.

As we examine our political place in the history of this city, it is essential that we recognize that in the Bedford-Stuyvesants and Harlems of this city, we’re only able to produce the Percy Suttons, Al Vanns, Shirley Chisholms, Constance Baker Motleys and David Dinkins because of the large concentration of Black homeowners and their renters in these communities that where born out of a sense of commonality and familial and regional bonds. So let’s understand that change is inevitable; let’s not be intimidated by it, but let’s make sure we don’t lose out because of a lack of knowledge and proper planning! Kudos to all who participated in the focus group and “keep your ear to the ground,” for we will be bringing this forum to the larger community to empower folks with knowledge. The Bible states, “My people are destroyed for the lack of knowledge,” and thanks to the Bed-Stuy Black Real Estate Board, the Bridge Street Development Corporation and the concerned professionals who volunteered their time and expertise, we are making that knowledge available.

The author is a senior Minister, Nazarene Congregational United Church of Christ in Bed-Stuy, and Democratic candidate for the 36th City Council District