The Greenlining Institute (GI) is helping to even the playing field for homeownership and pay equity while fighting against gentrification in South los Angeles and other underserved communities. South L.A. natives have been victims of gentrification, discrimination, and other racial illegal practices enacted to remove them from the community, so developers and big corporations can do as they please with the land.

Sometimes these motives were based on racial ideology and caused people to use threats of violence and radical demonstrations to cause fear and terror in Black and Brown communities.

The Greenlining Institute has utilized a coalition built by grassroots leaders from the African American, Asian American, Latino, and disabled communities since the 1970s.

Instead of simply fighting institutionalized discrimination and redlining – the illegal practice of denying services to communities of color. They worked together to proactively bring investments and opportunities into these communities.

Support from community stakeholders

“Over the next couple of years, all three GI teams will be focusing on five equity core strategies: shaping and adjusting a healthy economy, eliminating the root causes of inequity faced by minorities communities, increasing household wealth, building healthy and resilient communities of color, and building intersectional leadership and power across sectors to advance equity agenda to influence the next generation of leaders, said Rami Ibrahim, programs coordinator for the Economic Equity team. They are major supporters of the Greenlining Institute’s vision of economic investment among communities of color and holding financial institutions accountable.

What began as an informal coalition grew so much that it needed a more concrete organizational structure, so The Greenlining Institute was established in 1993. The Greenlining Institute was founded on the belief that diverse communities are a source of unrealized assets and strength, and diversity leads to greater effectiveness. GI is committed to building an inclusive, cooperative, sustainable, participatory, fair, and healthy economy. Their multifaceted advocacy efforts address the root causes of racial, economic, and environmental inequities to meaningfully transform the material conditions of communities of color in California and across the country.

Targeting business development

GI is currently split into three teams, each having its mission and agenda. The Economic equity team holds the banks accountable for access and lending capabilities to minority communities. This includes federal bank accounts, reform work, and developing affordable climate-resilient housing for communities. They want to expand public and private dollars available to communities of color to strengthen their communities with affordable housing, jobs, clean energy, and transportation. They also want to expand and target resources and business development opportunities for households and businesses of color to build wealth through homeownership, jobs, and entrepreneurship. Lastly, they want to protect and restore communities of color from wealth stripping, including medical debt and excessive utility and insurance costs.

The Climate equity team is in charge of state climate resilience and mobility, and transportation. Their job is to advocate for improving the quality of indoor and outdoor air by advancing policies like building decarbonization, increasing clean transportation options and access to other clean technologies, and providing capacity building and technical assistance needed to support community-led change efforts. They are also working with renewable energy developers, SoCal Edison, and the Clean Power Alliance to advance the solar projects in Willowbrook that will demonstrate the power of community decision-making in clean energy investments.

The Transformative Communities (TCC) team is a nationwide team that’s in charge of implementing and developing a six-month bilingual climate justice team in different parts of California to help build intersectional leadership and power across issues, sectors, and places to advance an equity agenda. TCC funds communities to create and implement holistic, connected visions to transform their neighborhoods to reduce CO2 emissions and provide meaningful community benefits such as cleaner air, improved health, and job opportunities. They provide support to organizations led by communities of color to access resources and advance their advocacy agendas. 

Advocating small business policy reform

GI helped to spearhead the drafting and passage of SB 535, authored by Sen. Kevin de León of Los Angeles and signed into law in September 2012. This law guaranteed that 25 percent of our climate investments would go to projects benefiting disadvantaged areas. Four years later, they succeeded in boosting the percentage of climate investments directed towards disadvantaged communities and low-income Californians to 35 percent via another bill, AB 1550, authored by Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez of Los Angeles. 

Another initiative Greenlining has is supporting small businesses by advocating for a small business policy reform. “Intercity Advisor (ICA) is helping small businesses interested in scaling by hosting a workshop next year for businesses owned by Black and POCs. This will be a four-week lab, once completed, the business will be eligible for the equity funding that will give the business up to $50,000,” said Mercedes Gibson, an economic equity strategist with GI. Gibson also partners with the business team inside the City of Oakland Economic & Workforce Development Department to better support small businesses of color, as outlined in Oaklands, 2018 -2020 Economic Development Strategy.

Gipson said the partnership between GI and ICA will provide them with the knowledge and help to get them “ready to apply for grants and equity funding.”

Special Purpose Credit program.  

Another program GI is advocating for is the Special Purpose Credit program. This program is tailored to meet special social needs and benefit economically disadvantaged groups, including groups with common characteristics such as race, national origin, or gender. Properly designed, SPCPs can play a critical role in promoting equity and inclusion, building wealth, and removing stubborn barriers that have contributed to financial inequities, housing instability, and residential segregation.

As it stands, Bank of Americas is offering the credit program as a way to aid the Community Investment Act. The program does not require a credit score or mortgage insurance, but applicants will be judged using credit guidelines such as timely rent, utility bills, and phone and auto insurance payments. 

Monica Palmeira explains climate equity and the importance of understanding the financials. ” “We are focused on getting private sectors to provide financial support for us like insurance and pension funds to invest in climate resilience,” Palmeira said. She is also climate financial strategist for Greenlining and has held positions at the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research Strategic Growth Council, leading environmental justice initiatives. She spearheaded various outreach and technical assistance programs to support communities in accessing climate-related funding programs. 

Palmeira highlights Greenlining being active in pushing the Community Investment Act, which is designed to encourage commercial banks and savings associations to help meet the needs of borrowers in all segments of their communities, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. Congress passed the Act in 1977 to reduce discriminatory credit practices against low-income neighborhoods, a practice known as redlining. 

You can learn more about the Greenlining coalition and their efforts by visiting https://tinyurl.com/2p8s8hne, and if you would like to support their efforts, you can also donate using the same link. For business owners looking to apply for the workshop or to learn more about the credit program, visit https://tinyurl.com/mskhm2pa. 

Our Weekly coverage of local news in Los Angeles County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support minority-owned-and-operated community newspapers across California.

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