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Jerrall Haynes, who grew up in a Habitat for Humanity home, to serve as keynote speaker for organization’s annual event

April 26, 2022 Updated Mon., May 30, 2022 at 2:20 a.m.

Jerrall Haynes, Spokane’s first civil rights coordinator, poses for a photo Tuesday outside City Hall in Spokane. Haynes will give the keynote speech for Spokane’s Habitat for Humanity’s annual Hope Builders Luncheon.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Jerrall Haynes, Spokane’s first civil rights coordinator, poses for a photo Tuesday outside City Hall in Spokane. Haynes will give the keynote speech for Spokane’s Habitat for Humanity’s annual Hope Builders Luncheon. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

In Summerville, South Carolina, a white house with jade shutters and a red flag that reads “HOME” shows what Habitat for Humanity does best: builds houses to provide opportunity.

The home is the first that Jerrall Haynes’ mother, Sabrina, has owned.

Now, on the third floor of Spokane City Hall, Haynes holds an office as the city’s first civil rights coordinator. In his open cubicle filled with tan, 1980s office furniture, Haynes is tasked with another first in his role: writing a speech on the importance of Habitat for Humanity’s mission of building “homes, community and hope” with equity in mind as a keynote speaker for the organization’s upcoming Hope Builders Luncheon on Thursday.

“To match the time that our community is in right now around housing, to match what Habitat for Humanity does and their mission, to match that with me stepping into a new role where a big part of it is housing, and I get to talk about my personal experiences … is crazy. The intersections are on 1,000,” Haynes said.

Haynes recalled his time as a young scholar, aswhen varsity players would visit elementary and middle schools to complete community service projects.

This opened a two-way street of sports and community, which gave Haynes insight on how to sustain organic community relationships. He also recalled grocery trips with his grandfather expanding from 15 minutes to 45, to acknowledge and catch up with neighbors and family friends.

“People’s relationships go back generations, me and my friends would be somewhere hanging out and there’d be an adult who walks up and the first question they ask you is, ‘Who your people?’ They had a connection somewhere,” Haynes said. “Those organic interactions were people showing love for the sake of showing love, for nothing more or less. They didn’t want anything from you but being good.”

Haynes and his family moved into the home in 2000, staying from fifth grade until he graduated from high school. The house on Central Avenue holds much of Haynes’ younger self.

He remembers coming home in the fifth grade to his mother crying on 9/11 ; a cousin had been killed in the attack. It was the same place where he experienced his first breakup, where he squabbled with his siblings in the backyard or welcomed cousins back home for family reunions, where he pulled his first car, a black ’97 Ford Taurus filled with cassette tapes and CDs – Outkast, SWV and Gucci Mane – into the driveway.

The family home of the City of Spokane’s civil rights coordinator, Jerrall Haynes, in Summerville, South Carolina.  (Jerrall Haynes )
The family home of the City of Spokane’s civil rights coordinator, Jerrall Haynes, in Summerville, South Carolina. (Jerrall Haynes )

True to Summerville’s nickname ‘Flowertown,’ the scent of year-round azaleas, roses and tulips often permeated the home, the sun casting in through the dining and living room windows. Gerald Levert, The Isley Brothers or Whitney Houston harmonized from a speaker in the living room on Saturday chore mornings.

Peaceful mornings transformed into chaotic nights, with his uncles’ camaraderie of cracking jokes outside on the porch that was furnished with matching white outdoor décor. Haynes’ mother filled the home with comforting shades of yellows and browns and with the academic and sports accomplishments of her children.

The dinner table was filled with Haynes’ childhood food favorites of shrimp and grits or rice purloo rooted in his Gullah Geechee heritage, cultivated by enslaved Africans responsible for the rice and indigo plantations during American slavery.

It also became a family home of safety and support. A cousin and friend who lived further from Summerville High School had his own set of keys to the home. His older brother’s friends returned to the home after football games, eating in anticipation of who would make the local news’ sports recap. By chance, the house was a block away from Haynes’ grandparents, as the new space became the “family home.”

“The chances of my mother owning a home were a lot more slim without them, possibly wasn’t in the cards and that’s huge,” Haynes said. “Having that consistency to come home to, a place to celebrate, to mourn, is important.”

But most of all, it gave Haynes and his family an important gift: freedom. The return on investment is undeniable. Along with the sacrifices his mother made, Haynes called the home one big facet of him “beating the odds.” From the moment the house was being built, Haynes remembers his mother repeating a phrase Black people historically couldn’t say about homeownership: “This is ours.”

“For the first time, not only in her life, but in our lives, we owned something,” Haynes said. “Who cares if the lights went on or we were low on food or didn’t have the money to buy the newest shoes? The house belonged to us, and still does.”

Along with two Army vet uncles and his grandfather, Melvin, who served in the Korean War, South Carolina’s avid military culture steered him to the direction of serving after high school.

Haynes enrolled into the U.S. Air Force, serving for 11 years and working as aircraft maintenance . He attended the historically Black South Carolina State University during his service.

Now, 20 years later, Haynes calls the opportunity to be a keynote speaker a full circle moment.

The lunch comes at a specific turning point of Spokane’s ongoing housing crisis. With the summer on the horizon, Spokane’s dire need of housing is only heightened.

Haynes believes that, along with Hope Builders’ event, Spokane is having the right conversations at the right time. For now, from his desk until Thursday morning, Haynes will ponder on how to deliver a speech meant to address the city, yet rooted in his life.

To balance the joy of witnessing his mother’s home ownership while also addressing the need for fair housing by avoiding outpricing residents of their own homes is a task that Haynes is prepared for.

“Home ownership, fair and affordable housing, that’s becoming more and more tough to come by,” Haynes said. “For organizations like Habitat to continue to take on the charge to provide quality affordable, equitable housing is so necessary now in Spokane’s history more than ever before.”

Amber D. Dodd's work as the Carl Maxey Racial and Social Inequity reporter for Eastern Washington and North Idaho primarily appears in both The Spokesman-Review and The Black Lens newspapers, and is funded in part by the Michael Conley Charitable Fund, the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, the Innovia Foundation and other local donors from across our community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper's managing editor.

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