Loving the San Francisco Bay Area... Community development, urban ministry, trying to defeat poverty, faith, religion, politics, good music, the quest for the perfect pizza, the Yankees, motorcycles... All in a 'day's life'

Thursday, April 27, 2006

I Love East Palo Alto

Yesterday I went to Samuels baseball game at MLK park in EPA. After getting agitated about a call at the plate I ended up sitting by the scoring table. I was good - kept my cool - but needed to be near the 'seat of power' to be ready to complain if it became necessary. Ok- so I'm becoming one of 'those' baseball dads. You better pray for me. Samuel's team won... he had an RBI single and stole second. I think it a lock for him to be on the Yankees in about nine years.

After a while a colleague / friend showed up to support his friends team. Malcolm is a great guy and a an emerging community leader. His uncle is one of the 'pillars' of East Palo Alto - working with youth. So - he introduced me to his friends Marcia and Edgar (their son plays on Samuel's team) and we end up in a great conversation about immigration reform, the positive side of hip hop, the church and the youth of EPA. I walked away feeling blessed to live in our community. Where else can you cheer for little league baseball and solve the world's problems. I love EPA.

Check out Malcolm's blog here.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Wealth Building Impeded Due to High Cost Lending

Wealth Building Impeded Due to High Cost Lending

Washington, DC- April 20, 2006 – The National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), The Opportunity Agenda and the Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) will hold a press conference today at 12:30PM on their a joint study entitled: Homeownership and Wealth Building Impeded: Continuing Lending Disparities for Minorities and Emerging Obstacles for Middle-Income and Female Borrowers of all Races. The press conference will take place at the NCRC headquarters at 727 15th Street NW 8th Floor. The study reveals that home loan lending inequities transcend not only, racial and gender lines, but the ethnic make-up of neighborhoods as well.

“This report is the first to show the home lending cross-sections between race, gender and income and to specifically examine lending practices in immigrant neighborhoods,” says John Taylor, President and CEO of NCRC. “It clearly outlines that regardless of how much money you make, if you are part of the traditionally underserved, then odds are you are receiving a high cost loan. That makes it difficult to keep your home, manage your bills and to build inheritable wealth in this country.”

Based on the new 2004 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data, NCRC found that minorities and immigrants receive strikingly high numbers of high cost – or subprime - loans despite their economic status. In addition, middle and upper income borrowers in white neighborhoods received just 8.3 percent of subprime home purchase loans, while the same income group in immigrant neighborhoods received over 13..6 percent of high cost loans. Markedly, women – regardless of ethnic or racial make-up - received over 32.1 percent of subprime loans made to all Americans even though females compose only 29 percent of the nation’s households. In contrast, women received only 24 percent of the prime home purchase loans.

"Homeownership is an important element of opportunity in America," said Brian D. Smedley, Research Director for The Opportunity Agenda. "This report shows that the security of homeownership remains out of reach for many because of differences in home lending markets across communities. These lending disparities compound the multiple barriers to opportunity that many groups face."

The abilities of a broad segment of the American population to build wealth through homeownership are impeded by the prevalence of high cost lending that drains homeowner equity. Indeed, building wealth through homeownership has been the American Dream and the path to opportunity for Americans for generations. Stakeholders need to come together to make sure that wealth-building opportunities are preserved by increasing equal access and fairness in the lending marketplace.

NCRC is a national non-profit membership organization that promotes economic justice and equal access to credit, capital and financial services to traditionally underserved communities. For more information on NCRC, visit us on line at www.ncrc.org or call 202-628-8866.

The Opportunity Agenda is a communications, research, and advocacy organization dedicated to building the national will to expand opportunity in America. For more information, go to www.opportunityagenda.org or call 212-334-5977.

The Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) is a civil rights research and policy organization based in Washington, D.C. PRRAC’s primary mission is to help connect advocates with social scientists working on race and poverty issues, and to promote a research-based advocacy strategy on race and poverty issues. For more information, visit www.prrac.org or call 202-906-8023.

Hewlett Guide for Grantmaking to Community Development Efforts

Here is the Hewelett foundations guide for grantmakers in the community development area... Good information here. Read the report here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Update on AUF and the Liotti Family

Dear Friends and Family,

Once again I need to ask for your grace given the lack of updates from us. Much has transpired over the last few months. They have been a whirlwind of change and transition for our family and ministry. In the midst of everything, God continues to be faithful and good…


Looking at the calendar on the wall - it now appears to be over three years since we started the AUF project. What a ride it has been! Many thoughts come to mind when I think about AUF. Tough times, lots of laughs, good friends, worship and prayer… Looking back, it’s been a deep growing time for Melissa and I. We’ve learned to be pastors, community leaders, to push through hard time and disappointments.

Last February we began to again take stock in the project. There were a few factors coming into play. A number of our core team were desiring to move on - mainly due to life circumstances. Our core team, while being very consistent and committed over the years remained small and was now getting much smaller. As we looked at who would remain it became apparent to us that the project had run its course. This was a very tough decision for us. Most of us gave our all to see the project become a success. The relationships that were developed over the three years were very close and family like. However, there was a sense that it ‘was time’ and there was a peace with the decision to close the church.

So closed a chapter in our life. I have no regrets about starting AUF. Sure, in hindsight there are things I would have done differently. In general it was a positive experience for me and, I believe, those who were involved. We learned a ton, had great fellowship, reached out to the community and saw people loved and ministered to. In the end, I feel, that we were faithful to the call.


So - In March the Liotti’s found themselves for the first time in many years without a church. Throughout the AUF experience there were two very important relationships that were consistent; our relationship with Highway (our mother church) and Pastor Bains and St. Samuel COGIC. There was significant personal draw to both congregations. We love Highway and Pastor Dean Smith. Dean is a great pastor who has loved and cared for us since we moved to the Bay. Additionally, Pastor Bains is a great friend and supporter. St. Samuel felt like home. The congregation is loving and graceful.

It was a very difficult decision for us, deciding where we would land. After much prayer, conversation and thought we felt that God was calling us to serve Pastor Bains and the family at St. Samuel. Pastor Bains asked me to come on a pastor, taking over the young adult, youth and children’s ministry. So - we’ve been at St. Samuel since late March. To date it’s been a wonderful experience. I’m learning a ton about multi-cultural ministry, pastoral ministry in a more ‘formal’ setting (AUF was very informal), the Church of God in Christ denomination as well as a variety of other things. My love for Paul and Cheryl Bains is growing day by day - they are amazing leaders and pastors.

The journey is just starting at St. Samuel - I’ll keep you posted!


As if that wasn’t enough transition for us - I officially gave my notice at Bayshore Christian Ministries on March 1st. As you know - I’ve been working on the Northern California Urban Development Corporation project for about 11/2 years now. In late 2004 we formed a new non-profit corporation to engage in economic and community development in East Palo Alto and beyond. Our first goal is to see a community development credit union in EPA by early 2007.

The project has progressed much in the last few months. We’ve been able to secure enough funding to get us through the next six months; we’re locking up an office space and location for the future credit union. Again, after much prayer and consideration we felt that it was time to step out in faith on the project. Yes, it’s a little scary - but if we’re to see our goals accomplished it’s going to require a higher level of attention and leadership.

Additionally - it was a tough decision to leave Andy Hartwell and the BCM team. I’ve served there for almost six years. Likewise BCM has been a phenomenal growth experience for me. Andy has been a great boss and friend. I know that I can be hard to deal with sometimes - he’s been patient!

When I approached Andy with my plans - he asked if I could stay on as a part time employee through mid may. Andy is currently on an extended and much needed vacation in Italy and the Middle East. He requested that I remain on as interim Executive Director in his absence. I was all too happy to continue to serve BCM in this manner.

So- my last day at BCM will be on May 15th. At that time I’ll be full time with NCUDC. There is a ton of work to be done. Please keep us in your prayers as we pursue to the dream to bring economic justice to our community.


Thankfully - Melissa is not in transition! She is still happily and joyfully employed at New Creation Home in EPA. Melissa loves her job. Her director, Katie Fantin has become like family to us. Melissa is doing what she loves, working with kids and babies. NCH is a gem. They do vital ministry in the community to a group of people who are in much need of the Kingdom of God in their lives. We’re thankful that Melissa can serve in this capacity and that God has called her to serve in this way.


To continue the theme of transition, early this year we felt compelled to move Samuel into a new school. Since kindergarten he has been in a local school in eastern Menlo Park. To be honest, it’s been a very positive experience for him through the fourth grade. However, this year, due to transitions and changes in the school, the scenario was different. As committed as we are to incarnational ministry in the community, I felt that I couldn’t sacrifice Samuel’s education. Thankfully, God opened up the door for him to attend Los Altos Christian School.

Samuel has been very happy at LACS in many ways. We have found that he is somewhat behind in some subject areas and catching up has been difficult for him. Melissa and I feel like he’s in the right place - but we ask for your prayers for Samuel as he fights to catch up. All in all - he’s in a healthy place… that’s an answer to prayer!

In conclusion…

Whew! It’s been a crazy season for us! Thank you so much for your prayers and support. Many times over the past few years I’ve felt buoyed by the prayers of the saints. I continue to ask for your prayers on our behalf. God continues to be loving and faithful. We’re honored to be in His service and are thankful to be where we are as a family. If you have any questions - don’t hesitate to contact me.

By the way - please change my e-mail address to: jliotti@norcaludc.org in your records. Melissa’s e-mail is Melissa@newcreationhome.org.

Please keep in touch…

- The Liotti’s