Sacha Armstrong-Crocket may be a real estate agent in her career, but her passion for housing goes far beyond buying and selling properties. She is also a community activist focused on ending housing segregation and racism.
In addition to being co-chair of Middletown’s anti-racism task force, Armstrong-Crocket has founded the Connecticut Home Collective. As part of that entity, she has created a curriculum to educate everyone from renters and landlords to new home buyers and municipalities about housing justice. The curriculum is aptly named Foundations.
The curriculum, which is offered free of charge, focuses in part on what Armstrong-Crocket calls people’s “home story.” Some people grow up in high opportunity areas while others grow up in low opportunity areas, she says. Low opportunity areas usually have higher crime rates, lower performing schools, and environmental issues. Their population is also often predominantly people of color.
Understanding your home story is the first step, she says, to healing, which in turn can lead to learning and, finally, action. “You need to heal your home story,” Armstrong-Crocket says. “Acknowledge your childhood stuff and where you grew up. We may not know how living in these spaces affects who we are. If you grew up in a high opportunity area, you may feel the need to protect that. It can be something that unintentionally becomes part of your story—I have to protect this space the same way my parents protected me when I was a child.”
The vision for Foundations curriculum is to Heal Home Stories by providing community based fair housing education with a restorative approach. Foundations will provide communities with language behind the housing crisis and housing segregation. Our plan is to lessen the shame, reduce the harm and empower real housing justice through the people. The curriculum is based on the following three areas:
Heal: Heal your story by giving space to explore how where you grew impacts who you are today
Learn: Release burden of Home Story trauma by learning the truth behind the shared legacy of housing segregation and the government’s role in this racial divide
Act: An empowered community can dismantle, reimagine and curate a shared local housing vision that honors all citizens
“We all have a role in ending housing segregation and encouraging more diverse home ownership in our communities.” Armstrong-Crocket says. “I want to do my part to educate folks and empower folks.”
In part Armstrong-Crocket’s own experience influences her activism. “As a Black woman, I was raised that I had to have this forced resiliency. There was no room for me to take space to be sad or hurt. That would be a sign of weakness,” she says. “We certainly didn’t take space to talk about our past. It was very secretive and shameful. It makes it difficult when you’re in a crisis situation to cope. You start to realize you’ve been stifling all emotions through strength for a long time. When you’re raised that the world doesn’t stop when a Black girl cries, you learn there’s no room for my tears. But a healing I owe to myself and to my children and to my ancestors allows me to be okay with accepting and recognizing my experience. I’m allowed to feel these things.”
Armstrong-Crocket’s parents migrated to the Middletown area from Nashville, Tennessee. “They tried to pick the most liberal college town they could find. Once here, they realized they were looking for this American dream but they didn’t quite know if they might be included in it. Even in the North there’s racism, it’s just more polite. That disappointment was unpacked regularly in front of me.”
“I had the opposite upbringing of my parents but I had no guidance from them about how to cope,” she says, noting she was often the only Black girl in the room growing up. “They didn’t know what I was going through. They couldn’t understand it.”
“I am thankful but I felt isolated and alone. Nobody had my hair type, facial features or even similar family histories. I felt I had to be white or follow white norms in order to be accepted. You lose yourself in that. Now I love who I am and affirming blackness.”
And Armstrong-Crocket is affirming speaking out. “We have a charred legacy of housing segregation. It’s alive and well. You can still see it when you drive through Connecticut communities,” she says. “We have a shared responsibility to dismantle and create a shared vision of what we want. That’s the hope.”
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