D.W. has always been an advocate. He is passionate about advocating to help others. For ten years, he worked as an education specialist for a government agency working with people with developmental disabilities. After the agency lost its funding, D.W. wanted to find a job that would allow him to continue to advocate for people. So D.W. went to the Actors Fund, which referred him to the Fair Housing Justice Center’s (FHJC) Acting for Justice program.
Since then, D.W. has worked as a tester, a role which allows him to advocate and work for all those facing housing discrimination in the New York City region. “Housing shapes everything that we do,” D.W. explained. “Housing discrimination denies people the ability to be part of the fabric of our country. We need to continue to fight and build one community without exclusion.”
As an African American tester, D.W. has sometimes participated in tests where he has been discriminated against by a housing provider. In many ways, D.W. has found that the experience of testing truly shows the scale of the problem of housing discrimination. “The experience of testing can be frightening because it does prove that discrimination still exists,” D.W. explained. “It does prove that how discrimination happens now is distinctly different from how it happened in the 1950s, when housing providers could slam the door in your face. It does prove that discrimination happens very discreetly, behind closed doors.
“Testing also proves that this type of work needs to be done,” he continued. Always the advocate, D.W. also finds testing to be very rewarding because of the impact his work and the work of the FHJC has. “We are working to make sure that the playing field is even and fair for all people.”
This story is part of a series called Acting for Justice Stories, which highlights the experiences of the testers who make up the FHJC’s Acting for Justice testing program. Testers pose as ordinary home seekers in order to determine if housing providers and others are complying with fair housing laws. If you are interested in supporting the Acting for Justice program, consider donating to the FHJC at www.fairhousingjustice.org/give.