When the third installment of the six-part free webinar series, “Imagine More: Racial Justice Begins with Us,” is held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feather O’Connor Houstoun is hopeful the event on housing issues will draw strong participation — as the first two parts of the series did.
But Houstoun, a board member of the Fund for New Jersey, which is sponsoring the program, is holding out hope that a certain segment of the New Jersey community also will listen in: the business community.
Houstoun, who has advised governors on both sides of the aisle for decades, said she understands the importance a nonpartisan business leader can bring to any issue — but especially to those that often are seen through a progressive lens.
“I have often said to businesspeople, ‘You are in a special position of privilege, and your willingness to ask questions can give cover to conversations that can easily become polarized,’” she said.
Business leaders, Houstoun said, play a unique role in society.
“I think businesspeople have a role of leadership in their community and on their school boards and in their business community itself, to raise issues, to say, ‘How blind are we to things that are happening here?’ And because they are likely to be white men — not always, but often — they can ask that question in ways that are very different and very effective,” she said.
The event, “Achieving Safe and Healthy Homes for All,” will feature policy experts, legal scholars, civil rights advocates and activists.
Taking place the same month as the 54th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the event will feature a discussion of the discriminatory practices that have led to failed housing policies and outline strategies for improving the lives of all New Jerseyans through pathways to homeownership for wealth building, as well as climate-resilient, healthier homes. (Register here.)
The event, moderated by Grizel Ubarry (vice chair, the Fund for New Jersey) will feature noted policy leaders Eric Dobson (deputy director, Fair Share Housing Center), Sheryll Cashin (professor of law, civil rights and social justice, Georgetown University) and Gantry Fox (director of operations, Salvation and Social Justice).
Following the event, participants will receive resources and information to guide them while advocating for equitable housing reform in their communities.
Houstoun hopes business leaders — whether they attend the webinar or not — will be leaders moving forward.
They have the power, she said.
“I’m often the person saying ‘Who is affected by this? Who can contribute to this?’” she said. “And I can tell you, it’s so much easier for a business leader to do this, compared to anybody else.
“I guess what I would say to business leaders is, ‘You can be an ally with little risk to yourself and you can help solve a big social problem.’”
The event is the third in the six-part Imagine More series.
Future events include:
- Reaching Equity in Education: May 17 (register here);
- Ensuring Health for All: June 21 (register here);
- Building Political Power of the Most Impacted: July 19 (register here).