ELCD Member Profile: Meet two of our ELCD members!
- Aaron Berc is a Community Organizer at Jewish Community Action who works on tenant rights, anti-displacement & affordable housing issues in suburban Hennepin County.
- Tram Hoang is finishing her Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning at the Humphrey School this May. She currently interns at City of Minneapolis CPED, helping the Residential and Real Estate Team create affordable homeownership opportunities throughout the city.
We’ve had a ton of fun working together for the past year in the Make Homes Happen coalition, but this was the first time we were able to sit down and chat without a meeting agenda. We quickly realized there was a lot to learn about one another!
Last April, we both got the opportunity to attend the PolicyLink Equity Summit through the support of the ELCD Scholarship Fund. We traveled to Chicago with the Minnesota cohort (the largest group to represent any state!) and spent three emotionally and intellectually exhausting and stimulating days surrounded by work that actually addresses the root causes of social inequality. With a shared dislike for excessive wealth accumulation, we especially enjoyed plenaries that discussed the double-edged sword of America’s reliance on extracted wealth (aka foundation dollars) to fund systemic change. Shout-out to Charlene Carruthers for being one badass panelist! Furthermore, we learned about alternatives to a capitalist society during sessions on equitable economic development. We were inspired by communities like the one created by the Boston Ujima Project, a model for democratic community development in which residents contribute to and invest funds in their own neighborhoods, removing speculative investment risk from the picture and achieving true community control.
Tram had the opportunity to attend a mobile workshop touring properties developed through Chicago Public Housing Authority’s “Plan for Transformation”, a 20-year strategy to address a lack of housing funding by privatizing swaths of public housing and creating mixed income communities. Hearing from both PHA staff, and more importantly, residents impacted by the Plan for Transformation, helped her understand the complexities, motives, and outcomes of achieving such a plan. As federal funding for housing continues to fall, we should all learn from the experiences of Chicago Public Housing residents and weigh the risks of privatization through programs like HOPE VI.
Two of Aaron’s highlights from the PolicyLink summit were the ability to learn from thought leaders & icons in social movements for equity like john a. powell, Charlene Carruthers, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Ai-jen Poo of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans, and so many more. It was also a critical week to spend with coalition partners from both Make Homes Happen & Equity in Place. The intensity of the Summit helped build trust & relationships between partners in a way that made us closer as friends & colleagues, and more prepared to take on the challenges of housing & equitable development in the Twin Cities for years to come.
Throughout our time at the Equity Summit, we heard from so many incredible people and courageous leaders working in every sector to achieve a more just society. The one thing that connected all 4000+ participants was a value that the two of us also shared – staying grounded in our communities and cultural identities as we pursue systems-changing advocacy work.