Recognizing achievement and elevating representation during Black History Month

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In 1926, Black-owned real estate firms accounted for a sliver of total American entrepreneurship. But pride in Black business ownership was alive, and blossoming, laying the foundation for the conversations we get to have as a company today. 

In the 1920s, University of Chicago alumnus Carter G. Woodson built on the existing national conversation around Black achievement and founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). In February 1926, Woodson and the ASNLH announced the first Black History Week. 

Conversations around Black achievement ebbed and flowed over the following decades, eventually surging again in the 1960s. 

In 1969, Black educators and students at Kent State University set aside February for reflection and education around Black historical achievements. Six years later, colleges across the country were celebrating Black History Month, prompting President Gerald Ford to officially recognize Black History Month during the nation’s Bicentennial Celebration. 

Today, we honor that legacy and the achievements of NextHome’s remarkable Black brokers, owners, and associates. The conversations that started in 1926 laid the foundation for us to have better conversations around race today, but we still have a long way to go.

Continuing to build a more diverse, inclusive brand in real estate is more important to me today than ever before. While I am proud that more than 25 percent of our company is minority owned, we cannot stop here. 

I believe that to see change, we need to lead change, no matter how hard or impossible it might feel. That means really listening and learning. 

Shauna Graves

As we reached out to some of our many NextHome brokers, owners, and associates who exemplify African American professional excellence, once thing became very clear: representation matters. 

When Shauna Graves began her career almost 19 years ago, she said that many high-achieving real estate professionals didn’t look like her. But the few who did had a profound impact on her future success. 

“I admired Real Estate professionals Janelle Rayford, Charisma Dockery-Smith, and the late Bill Scurry who all ran successful real estate businesses,” Shauna said. “They each had Melanin Magic, and I got to see what my future could look like.”

Today, Shauna has achieved her own success as the owner of NextHome Allegiance in Concord, North Carolina. Her knowledgeable service and leadership has helped numerous clients and real estate associates. 

In 2021, Shauna became the first African American female featured as the cover story of the Charlotte Real Producers magazine in honor of Black History month. 

“Although I was truly honored to be featured as one of the top Realtors in the Charlotte region, I also hoped my story would inspire others, just as I was inspired by the example of professionals who paved the way for me.”

In Sugar Land, Texas, Derek Wells, owner of NextHome Elite Advisors, echoed the importance of greater representation. 

Derek Wells

“The lack of representation of African Americans in real estate can be a barrier to entry and make it difficult for members of the community to find relatable and trustworthy professionals,” Derek said. “Increasing the representation of African Americans in the industry, both in terms of agents and industry leaders, can help to build trust and make the industry more accessible.”

It’s hard to be what you can’t see. As we listened to the feedback from our Black brokers and owners, we learned that in order to increase representation, it’s important to highlight examples of excellence.

“As I see more African Americans opening their own brokerages and serving in leadership roles in the real estate industry, I’m quite grateful to share my experiences and advice when the opportunity arises,” said Wilber Lane, owner of NextHome Realty Consultants in North Augusta, South Carolina. “My hope is that the future provides many more opportunities for minorities to attain wealth, growth, and leadership responsibilities.”

Wilber Lane

As the person leading growth for NextHome it is very important to me personally to ensure that NextHome represents everyone in every community regardless of race. Putting Humans Over Houses® is at the core of who we are as a company. And race is an important part of many people’s human identity. By not shying away from hard conversations, and talking about race and representation, it brings many new perspectives to the table. This ultimately leads to more innovative and effective solutions to the problems we face not just as an industry but in our own communities as it pertains to homeownership. 

These conversations are not just tokenism: the example we set as business leaders will ripple through generations. 

Donnell Williams

“Having the freedom of being able to raise my child in this environment is an unforeseen perk that I’ve come to love,” Wilbur added. “Many days she is in the office with us learning and growing as we are all family. Our office is diverse. We come from different backgrounds, opinions, ethnicities, and colors. But we treat each other as family nonetheless. This is why Black History Month is important to me, because despite our differences, we all can come together to laugh, learn, love and appreciate one another as family.”

“Black History Month serves as an invaluable reminder of the incredible legacy our African-American communities have left for us — a legacy that goes far beyond any single month,” said Donnell Williams, owner of NextHome Prime Properties in Fort Washington, Maryland. “It also provides each one of us with a moment to pause and reflect on how, in many aspects from education to systemic racism, we are still working towards true equity across all lines. Let’s use this special time to both celebrate those who came before us while taking action today so their progress has meaning long into tomorrow.”

“We’re incredibly grateful to our African-American franchise owners and brokers for continuing to engage in deep conversations with us and for helping us build a company that we all can be proud of,” added NextHome CEO James Dwiggins.

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