During the mid-1970’s a group of grassroots leaders from the Black, Asian American, Latino, and disabled communities came together around a visionary idea. What if, Instead of simply fighting institutionalized discrimination and redlining–the illegal practice of denying services to communities of color–we could work to proactively bring investments and opportunity into communities of color? Instead of different groups fighting for scant slices of a too-small pie, imagine what we could achieve if we increased the size of the pie for everyone. This was the beginning of The Greenlining Institute.

That vision of a powerful, collective effort is our north star at Greenlining. We’re now poised to expand upon our mission to fight against redlining and systemic racism to explicitly include building political and economic power within the communities who need it most.

As we begin this new year, I am cautiously optimistic about the possibilities that lay ahead for our movement to build an equitable future. No doubt 2021 was another difficult year for our communities. The United States is staring down the yawning racial wealth gap that has, in fact, been widening since 1993, the year of our founding. We’re grappling with the compounding impacts of climate change and the terrific burden that frontline communities carry. And, the unending and changing nature of the pandemic continues to weigh us down as we eagerly try to find our way out of this darkness. 

But, this is a moment when we can seize a new day. 

OPPORTUNITY AWAITS

Greenlining has always held a bolder vision for transformative change. We have always defined our racial equity work as the path forward to unleash the constraints of the US economy and tear down the barriers to opportunity. 

I am energized by the progress we were able to make with the launch of The Greenlining Institute’s strategic plan. In it, we articulated the need to take an intersectional approach in how we as a community can build power, and where The Greenlining Institute is best positioned to advance economic and climate equity. 

Looking ahead to 2022, we are driven by our laser-like focus on equity and the pernicious ways that racism and oppression continue to replicate and manifest itself. 

New Frontiers of Redlining
The truth is, the new frontiers of redlining are alive and well.

The maps showing communities that were redlined are the same communities showing the highest levels of air pollution, feel the most devastating impacts of COVID-19, and remain shut off from broadband technology that can serve as paths to economic opportunity. That is by design. 

Access to safe, affordable, and accessible housing continues to be the battleground where our fundamental rights on who belongs is debated with astonishing vitriol. The housing crisis here in California and across the country underscores the lasting and shameful legacy of housing segregation and redlining. 

This year, we will continue to bring forward promising solutions to build a just economy that will eliminate all forms of redlining once and for all. But we need to do more than simply drive dollars into communities, we need to implement a holistic approach that meets needs AND builds resiliency and lasting power.

We simply cannot afford to piecemeal or patchwork our way through this. We must continue to invest in new models of governance, technologies and resources and double down on the knowledge and wisdom of our communities. 

Equity is a verb and true equity must move beyond words and lofty aspirations. It must be reflected in the day-to-day practices of individuals and institutions and results for our communities. Over the last three decades, Greenlining has been doing the work, learning from our missteps, and iterating our approaches. And from that, we’ve created a blueprint and a path forward to achieve lasting equity. It’s through the tough, ongoing, and sometimes tedious work of creating new models of governance, increasing access to power, and allocating and redistributing resources to communities that need it most that will be the key to success. 

This work isn’t quick or simple. But it is good work, and critical work, and revolutionary work. And it is not possible without you. I remain buoyed by the partnerships that we continue to forge with donors who believe in our mission, with the public and private sector who share the same urgency in addressing the current challenge with ambition, as well as our long term coalition and community partners that have stood alongside us as we have made steady progress. 

We look forward to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with you as we take on these big challenges this year.

Debra-GoreMann-Greenlining-CEO
Debra Gore-Mann is the President and CEO of The Greenlining Institute. Follow her on LinkedIn.