I fell asleep dreaming of next year’s fundraiser—our 30th anniversary, of all we have to celebrate and all we still must achieve.
The Community Reinvestment Act—established in 1977 to ensure that insured financial institutions make credit available to the low-income communities—has not always been celebrated. For decades, it wasn’t even put into practice. And perhaps nowhere else is the stark contrast between corporate wealth and lack of community reinvestment more apparent than it is in Wilmington, in the humble headquarters of the Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council, where we fight.
We fight for equal access to credit and capital on behalf of those who feel voiceless, vulnerable and unequipped to fight these seemingly insurmountable fights themselves.
We fight because we believe in the power of education, in the belief that those armed in knowledge have the power to dismantle even the most towering economic systems of oppression.
We fight because we believe in community and in the profound return on community reinvestment.
And we fight even when it feels we are fighting alone.
DCRAC’s office was burgled on Friday, shortly after our annual celebration, the second break-in in the last month. It crashed my high, and, as these incidents often tend to do, it crushed my heart. But it did not diminish my fight.
As a child in India, I would sit with the servants at dinnertime. “Why should the people who cook our food not be at the table?” I’d ask to no answer. Maybe it was too difficult a question, or maybe there was no value in the girl who asked it. But the question haunted me and followed me 8,000 miles across the globe.
When I came to America in 1988, at age 28, I never imagined the “land of opportunity” could share the caste system of my childhood, where the vulnerable and marginalized still don’t have a seat at the table.
That was the fight I hoped to champion in 1994, when I was named executive director of DCRAC, and it is the fight I continue today.
I know what families go through when they don’t know what they don’t know. I know how to navigate waters I once thought impossible. I know the power of financial literacy, of economic education. And I know that even the fiercest opponents—the banks who once scoffed at the thought of CRA, who implemented many of the practices we fought so ardently against—can be powerful allies for change.
I don’t know who is breaking into our office, or why.
But I know this will not break me, and it will not break DCRAC. We will keep fighting, as we have always done, and when we celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the Community Reinvestment Act on Oct. 12, 2017, it is my greatest hope that we will have even more advocates fighting by our side. I invite our burglary to join us at this momentous occasion and find his seat at the table. Because otherwise, he will surely be on the menu.