In honor of Black History Month, I’d like to lift up two people who have had tremendous impact on my life and life purpose: Ms. Margaret Brown and Mr. Terrance R. Duvernay.
Margaret Brown was the first person who took a chance on me straight out of college. An attorney by trade, Margaret continues to be a champion of fair housing and a warrior for civil rights. She hired me to serve beside her at MSHDA in the Office of Civil Rights before I even graduated from college to join her for the fight for Civil Rights and Fair Housing and she was my base from which anything I have done has been built. Margaret taught me so many life lessons about the word respect and what it means to think like a woman in contrast to a man. I was immersed into an education and experience of Civil Rights, Equal Opportunity, Race Relations, Fair Housing, People with Disabilities, and so much more. Margaret also enjoyed her introductions of me. My maiden name is Brown so we shared the same last name and she really got a kick out of introducing me in front of audiences as her daughter – Sandy Brown.
Margaret was and remains today one of the strongest, most empowering woman I know and continues her good work as an attorney with the Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit. During her tenure at MSHDA she reported directly to Director Terrance R. Duvernay. Margaret held a high level of respect for Director Duvernay as did all who met and worked with Terry, and his legacy lives on today.
It was for this reason that I was extremely humbled to have been selected by housing and community development industry peers as the 2016 Terrance R. Duvernay award recipient at the Building Michigan Communities Conference. The recognition represents the highest honor in Michigan for the work I’m involved in which takes many, many hearts and hands to accomplish.
You know, I never met Terry. I can’t tell you what an honor it was to stand before hundreds of people and represent that his work and his passion truly has transcended his life. His work lives on. My commitment, in return, is that I will continue to earn the honor in his name and in partnership with all people in service to one another.
Because I worked for Margaret and numerous others who were hired by Terry and worked for him and with him, I know a few things about him that have been instilled in me and that I often say and do my best to live.Terry would say:
“There is no such thing as 'we can’t do that.' Instead, ask yourself, 'Can we do it if it’s going to benefit people?'”
"It’s about the people.”
It was important to Terry that “people succeed." He really wanted to see people succeed.
And he believed it’s a wonderful life. As Terry would say, “I want everyone to have a wonderful life.”
Every person I have met anywhere in the world - EVERYBODY wants the same thing. They want a roof over their heads and a safe place to call home, an income-earning job to provide for themselves and their family, education for their children, respect and opportunity to achieve these things. That’s it. Every person everywhere wants for the same. Likewise, we all have a God-given or universal, instinctual need to serve others. We all need and want love. It’s the same everywhere. What I love most about Habitat for Humanity and volunteer-based organizations is that it brings together people of all race, class, ethnicity, income level, profession, religion, or politics. When you are building and volunteering side by side, you are equal. And, when we join together, anything is possible. Margaret and Terry both understood and lived by this idea, and I am so grateful for their guidance and for the opportunity to walk the same path.
I invite you to join me in honoring Margaret and Terry and all that they stand for in this life to join together, keep centered on faith and people, do what we can, give people a hand up, believe in them, know them, be in a relationship with one another and those touched by our collective work while developing an environment of hope to succeed. It really is a wonderful life, and isn’t that really what we all want for one another?
President & CEO