Madison Roots LLC on A Mission to Build Generational Black Wealth and Ownership
Updated: Feb 9, 2021
Madison Roots LLC is a new group of Black investors who seek to amplify the wealth of Black families in Madison, Wisconsin using home ownership as a catalyst. To realize that mission, they seek to connect with White co-conspirators to inject LLC seed funding for the purchase of both rental property and homes. They also seek to build financial literacy through the causeway of a “rent-to-own” model. One group of White Madisonians, some of them from Families for Justice, have already connected with Madison Roots. Currently, they are providing local organizations with virtual workshops that introduce attendees to a wealth redistribution model of giving, and are also working to raise a minimum of $10,000 per month to support the purchase and transition of two homes to Black homeowners by encouraging donors and teams of donors to commit to at least $100 per month for 2021.
Their workshop, “Generational Wealth and the Black Homeownership Project" helps attendees learn about how generational wealth accumulates, how laws and policies have systematically boosted White wealth while blocking others, and introduces Madison Roots’ Black Homeownership initiative. (Contact Lailah Shima, firstname.lastname@example.org, if you’re interested in hosting a workshop in one of your communities.)
We recently caught up with Madison Roots investors to talk about their project and to hear how they connect the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to this work.
What do you wish white Madisonians more fully understood about the City’s housing situation and about the significant barriers to Black homeownership here?
We wish that White Madisonians came to grips with the fact that over the span of hundreds of years, white supremacy undergirds every institution in this nation and that access to building wealth through housing is unattainable for a large swath of Black citizens. Too many White people know too little about how racism shaped towns and cities in the northern part of this country. They don’t know about racist real estate covenants and often they don’t know about redlining. (How many Madisonians living in Shorewood Hills or the Nakoma neighborhood know about their neighborhoods’ histories of racial covenants denying Black people the right to own property in those neighborhoods?)
Even when Black citizens aren’t constrained by redlining or other racist legacies that put them at a disadvantage, mortgage denial rates are two times higher in most cases for Black people than all other citizens. As Paige Glozer said in this June Channel 3000 article, “Really focusing on equity as a priority in the planning process might mean not prioritizing places with good property values, it might mean rethinking how planning boards or community input is organized. It starts with listening to people who live in disadvantaged communities.”
What are or will be the difficult parts of making this a success? What challenges have you faced in putting this project out there and in getting it started?
The primary challenges we have faced and will continue to face is convincing White people that this is an issue and that the transfer of wealth is the most expeditious way to remedy the problem. We also need to generate additional funds to support the existing properties we purchase as well as new homes. Finally, a big challenge we’re up against is that currently White investors are buying up property in South Madison in particular and they’re paying way over the asking price so that others do not have a chance to purchase homes in that area.
Do you think people in this community are ready for the idea of individuals proactively redistributing their wealth (as opposed to more traditional modes of “charitable” giving)? Why or why not?
I think there is a cohort of Madisonians who are ready for this revolutionary idea, especially in lieu of the most recent events that played out on a national stage in Washington, D.C. this month where an insurrection happened on American soil and there was no military presence in sight. If we contrast that narrative with the Black Lives Matter protest over the summer the difference in treatment that has always been present was made clear for all the world to see. We are also encouraged by the recent philanthropic efforts of Mackenzie Scott and how she gave to many organizations led by people of color serving people of color. Scott intentionally gave unrestricted dollars with no strings attached and trusted leaders of color to know the needs of our communities. Our hope is that others take her lead and follow this way of giving in an unrestricted manner.
How has Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy shaped each of you over the years?
King was largely responsible for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Civil Rights Act banned discrimination in the workforce and public accommodations based on “race, color, religion, or national origin.”
“I Have a Dream" leaves the door open for a continual journey of racial progress—it doesn't cap things off with 1963. Dr. King's legacy continues in the work that we are doing as Madison Roots, bringing homeownership into the Black community here in Madison.
What does Dr. King's work mean to you going into 2021, over 50 years after his death?
Today, we’re experiencing the Birth of a New Undivided and Equal nation, where Black Americans can assume their rightful place in society. Dr. King’s legacy means that freedom will ring for Black Americans from every city in this nation. It means that Black Americans will no longer be looked at as third tier citizens, passed over for opportunities for basic human rights such as life, liberty, wealth and the pursuit of happiness. It means that this country will finally take ownership for its horrific past and not only genuinely apologize for it, but take active steps to rectify its history.
Want to host a wealth distribution workshop? Contact Lailah Shima, email@example.com.
Ready to join this effort? http://bit.ly/repairmadison
Families for Justice is a network of people in Dane County working to dismantle white supremacy through multi-generational community organizing and direct action. Read more on our main webpage.