Realtors’ organization backs removal of racist covenants

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

An on-going effort by a task force to do away with racist language in residential deeds is so significant that the Tallahassee Board of Realtors unanimously decided to join the campaign.

“I’m hoping that the (task force) can get the legislature to deal with it and get the language removed,” said Steven Loucheim, CEO of Tallahassee Board of Realtors CEO. “It’s just language that needs to be removed and hopefully people smarter than me can figure out how to get it out of there.”

Loucheim’s comments came a few days after the board signed a resolution last Tuesday in support of removing racist language from covenants.  Twenty three other organizations or branches of government have also signed the resolution of support primarily to convince state law makers to craft a bill to remove racial covenant state wide.

The list includes the city commission, which recently issued a proclamation against racist covenants. The county commission is expected to do the same.
Since the issue was made public earlier this summer, attorney Jami Coleman has been one of the driving forces.

“I’m shocked but I’m very, very full of gratitude and I’m happy that more and more organizations have come on board,” Coleman said.

Getting the backing of government and civic organizations is part of a plan to win support for state legislation to remove the racist language. Senator Bill Montford and state representative Loranne Ausley have said they will support a bill to kill the language.

Board member Barber Wright, a realtor who also is a member of the task force, said the organization signed the resolution without any objection.

“I understand it’s a part of history but it doesn’t make it right,” Wright said.

Last Sunday, Wright was among several people recognized by Rev. R.B. Holmes for their involvement in the effort to rid deeds of racial language.

“The unity behind this effort has been historic and unprecedented,” Holmes, pastor at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, wrote in a statement. “We are very pleased to have the Tallahassee Board of Realtors to support the resolution, strongly denouncing the toxic language in neighborhood covenants.

“We are pleased to have the realtor’s endorsement because of the origin of these bias covenants. It was realtors and title companies that were in support of the racist language in neighborhood deeds and covenants in 1939. We are proud of the realtors in this community; we are ecstatic about the great support given by community leaders to right this wrong”.

The covenant that started the outcry was made public by attorney Annabel Dias who found it in the deed for a home she intended to purchase in Betton Hills. In part, the covenant that is tied to utility easement, states anyone other than someone of the “Caucasian race” could not own property in some subdivisions.

Both Dias and Coleman, who is representing her, attended Sunday’s event along with members of the city commission.

“I really give her most of the credit for bringing this issue to the forefront,” Coleman said. “I think a lot of people get these things and if they do read them; because they are being told it’s unconstitutional, unenforceable, it wouldn’t stop their purchase of the property. For Annabel this was a very different type of reaction.

“I’m hoping that this is the catalyst for something more; more as being some kind of legislation throughout Florida and hopefully throughout our country that will remove, erase, redact (or) whatever you want to call that type of language.”