Dan Levine

As Interviewed by Marianna P, March 17, 2019

Dan Levine in His Own Words

My name is Dan Levine, I work in community development and I really like what I do. Self help has been around since 1980, its what’s called a community development financial Institution and it is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s a financial institution kind of like a bank or a credit union, but it has a particular focus on trying to help people in the community. So, Self-help in particular was made to try and help provide loans and other financial tools to people who a lot of times have been discriminated against and didn’t have fair access to things like a home loan, savings accounts, and places to keep their money to help their families. There’s 6 people who work directly with me, and we are kind of in charge of trying to figure out how to do real estate projects to basically impact communities. That happens through housing, but also through things like grocery stores, school development, and other things that are about trying to help create opportunities for people in their neighborhoods and in their communities.

I think a long, long time ago , a lot of the problems with income inequality and other things, date all the way back to our country thinking it was alright for people to own slaves when the country was founded, and for decades and decades after that. Even as laws started to change, just having whole groups of people who were really put at a disadvantage by discrimination against them.For example, It was very, very difficult to get a home mortgage or a loan to buy a house for people, really until not that long before I was born, and that’s one of the main ways people have access to building wealth over time. And to not have that for entire groups of people was something that’s really hard to overcome.

Think about your own experience living in the house you live in. You always know that you’re going to be able to come home to the same house every night. Stability, for adults and kids. Just to have a safe place that they know is home. Like, you could say to somebody “Oh, I want everyone to own a home”, but if they don’t actually have the opportunity to get a loan or to be trusted to live in certain neighborhoods, it can be really hard to get the economic justice no matter what you say about the issue.

So I’m going to tell you about a project in Durham, North Carolina. It’s called the Nangeer (which is the name of the street it’s on) Business and Children Center. The idea was to basically to take some abandoned buildings in an older neighborhood in Durham, and try to renovate them and try to make the space available to people who either run their own Non-Profits or are starting their own small businesses. So we have now opened a Child Care center, There’s a Non-profit that focuses on helping kids basically from birth all the way to high school to succeed and go on to college or careers. There’s an African American Pharmacist and his wife who have always dreamed of opening their own business, but never really had the opportunity. He worked at another person’s pharmacy, but really wanted to do it himself. So now him and his wife run a pharmacy. So Again, all people who had the skills, and had the idea, but didn’t have the right opportunities to open these businesses.

I just want kids to think about what does this mean to them. So when they think about social justice, why does it matter to them? Are they from a wealthy family that’s had a lot of things kind of help them become wealthier? Are they from a lower income family where maybe they didn’t have the same advantages? Are they maybe an immigrant and they think about the world through that, and what’s justice to me in a country I wasn’t born in?