GATEWAY PERSPECTIVES: The Power of Stories

Richard Haggerty | June 17, 2022

HGAR Chief Executive Officer Richard Haggerty

It’s my sincere hope that by discussing these inequities through the lens of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and focusing on the power of stories and personal experiences, we will create more meaningful and lasting change.

On June 14th HGAR, in collaboration with the National Association of Realtors, the New York State Association of Realtors, the New Jersey Realtors, the Rochester Association of Realtors, the North Central Jersey Association of Realtors, and the Greater Bergen Association of Realtors, conducted our first ever Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Summit. The sold-out event was conducted at the Sheraton in Mahwah, NJ and the response from the attendees was overwhelmingly positive.

From my perspective the reasons for the Summit’s success were many, from the content to the excellent presenters to the event planning, but if I had to put my finger on one aspect of the Summit that truly resonated for me, and I think many other attendees, it was the power of personal stories. We heard stories of overt and implicit bias, stories of deliberate and subtle exclusion, stories of pain and resiliency and hope, and those stories resonated with people. People talked about them in the hallways and during the breaks and they shared their own stories.

HGAR Past President Crystal Hawkins-Syska talked about her family’s roots as enslaved people from the plantations of South Carolina. She discussed how her grandfather, a World War II veteran, was essentially denied the benefits of the GI Bill because the legislation was deliberately crafted to exclude black servicemen. (For more on that topic visit this site How the GI Bill’s Promise Was Denied to a Million Black WWII Veterans – HISTORY). She also discussed how restrictive covenants were used to steer her grandfather away from living in Larchmont into more urban areas.

Matt Difanis, past Chair of the NAR Professional Standards Committee, who is part of a biracial family, talked about his journey as a DEI Champion, and shared his personal experiences confronting bigotry and discrimination.

Tanya Reu-Narvaez, Chief People Officer of Anywhere (formerly Realogy Holdings), shared her experiences and challenges as a person of color in the corporate world. Tanya also touched on something that we all need to be concerned about, the significant discrepancies in homeownership rates between different races. There is almost a 30% difference in homeownership rates between white and black Americans in the last decade, a staggering number that needs to be urgently addressed, especially as we are focused on homeownership month this June. We can’t talk about the vital role homeownership plays in creating generational wealth unless it’s available for all Americans on an equal basis. For more information on that topic please visit Racial Disparities in Homeownership Rates (nar.realtor)

The DEI Summit in Mahwah was a team effort, and I’d like to thank all the associations and individuals who made it such a success. I want to give a special shout out to Freddy Garcia, HGAR’s DEI Officer, who did a tremendous job spearheading the event. We’ve been discussing inequities in housing for decades through the lens of fair housing laws, with only incremental change. It’s my sincere hope that by discussing these inequities through the lens of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and focusing on the power of stories and personal experiences, we will create more meaningful and lasting change.

Richard Haggerty
HGAR CEO