Black History Month 2023
As we continue to celebrate Black Resistance this month, we welcomed the opportunity to dive into this theme in relation to affordable housing with Habitat Philadelphia’s Director of Home Sales and Post-Project Engagement, Rita Calicat.
Rita is a dedicated member of our Habitat Philadelphia team and works directly with families who partner with us to purchase their Habitat homes. She is often the one many homeowners seek out and thank first when they reach the completion of the program and celebrate their Home Dedication. Rita is also a part of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Belonging (DE&I) Task Force and is a representative and member of several advisory boards for Habitat for Humanity Internatonal’s Advancing Black Homeownership (ABH) Initiative. The DE&I Task Force launched in 2019 and ABH Initiative started in 2021 and she has seen them evolve and grow to what they are today.
The Advancing Black Homeownership Initiative is Habitat’s “commitment to closing the Black Homeownership gap” in the U.S. caused by “intentional and systemic racial discrimination” throughout history (Advancing Black Homeownership). Together, Habitat affiliates identify challenges and share resources with each other to help remove the unique barriers existing in each community.
“The initative is really powerful,” shared Rita, “It’s designed to meet each affiliate where it’s at and reminds us we are all engaging in this work at different points.”
Rita has been instrumental in helping ensure that Habitat Philadelphia’s work points towards Advancing Black Homeownership in our city and believes we are ahead of the game. For example, in the last year, we adjusted the sweat equity hours families are required to commit to complete the Homeownership Program, from 350 to 150 hours, because we believed it was a barrier of time. With the change, families are still able to receive the education they need and be prepared to become homeowners. In addition, through our Neighborhood Revitilizaiton work we have intentional conversations with the neighborhood residents living in the communities we are building in.
“I’m really proud that we try to be partners in these communities – we have the forethought to engage with residents, listen to understand and allow people to be a part of the process of what’s changing their community,” Rita says.
Rita shares that for people of color, resistance has been “a very long journey and struggle – and our city and the fundamental racist systems set in place have kept people of color out of opportunity for so long.” The history of Black Resistance in our country has been undeniably difficult, even in the space of affordable housing, and although it often feels as though “for every two steps we take forward, we’re forced to take four steps back, [Rita says] the important thing is, we do not stop.”
Let us continue to take the hard steps to our goal together, towards a city where everyone has a decent place to live.
Learn more about Habitat for Humanity’s Advancing Black Homeownership Initiative.