Community and Justice: Dorothy Mae Richardson’s Legacy and NeighborWorks America Week

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Every June for the past 37 years, NeighborWorks Week showcases the NeighborWorks network’s activities to recognize and support multitudes of community residents and leaders, volunteers, business partners, and national and civic leaders who stand together to strengthen communities. This year it takes on both a new approach and urgency. 

NeighborWorks organizations recognize the power of the individual, share leadership, and define and lead collective community action to effect positive change. These organizations are led by community residents who partner with local government and private sector actors to improve neighborhoods and the lives of residents in those neighborhoods. Affordable housing for homeowners and renters is a key element of their strategies.  

One such leader and inspiration is the legacy of Dorothy Mae Richardson. As a lifelong resident of a distressed African American neighborhood in Pittsburgh, she led the formation of Neighborhood Housing Services of Pittsburgh in 1968 to create access to safe and affordable housing. “The solution,” she said, “was not to tear down the whole neighborhood….it was to fix the houses.” Ms. Richardson’s advocacy caught the attention of the Urban Reinvestment Task Force and served as the impetus for two very important community development programs: federal legislation of the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 and the Congressional formation of the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation (now NeighborWorks America) in 1978. These programs brought resources to community organizations and created the community development financial institution industry. This model—focused on access to capital—is a key tenet of NeighborWorks Capital’s mission to support community efforts to renovate and build affordable housing.  

Without Dorothy Richardson and countless other community leaders, then and now, we would not be able to effect the changes we need to address racism. Read NeighborWorks Capital’s commitments to Community and Justice here

-Jim Ferris 


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