In early 2003, the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee reported that the Hampton Roads area in southeastern Virginia is the "most racially integrated metropolitan area in the nation" of the 400 areas it surveyed.
It is a wonderful distinction for the people and the communities of Hampton Roads, the nation's 35th largest metropolitan area and home to the largest concentration of active-duty military personnel in the nation.
But Hampton Roads is not stopping there. It has even greater distinctions in its sights.
Consider the way it celebrated Fair Housing Month. On Wednesday, April 21, mayors and city managers from seven cities - Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk and Virginia Beach - as well as executive directors from six area public housing authorities joined together to present a regional Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice to the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission. The communities of Hampton Roads aren't just "keeping the Dream alive;" they're advancing it.
"Just think about it," said HUD Regional Director Milton Pratt. "Seven independent cities and six public housing authorities ignoring boundaries and rivalries to work collaboratively and cooperatively to develop this plan. To the best of my knowledge, nowhere else in the country have so many local governments serving so many people joined together like this. You are taking what it means to be committed to fair housing and equal opportunity to a new level."
And the Analysis, prepared under the auspices of the Hampton Roads Community Housing Resources Board, is not just important for the 1.4 million people who presently call Hampton Roads home. It also will serve generations to come.
"If you don't do anything else during Fair Housing Month," Pratt said, "take the time to talk to just one child about fair housing, about equal opportunity and about the Dream. Children don't come into this world knowing how to hate. It's something they have to be taught. Our parents taught us right. Let's do the same for our kids and their kids. This Analysis tells us what society needs to do to advance the Dream, but that work starts in the one-on-one relationship between this generation and the next."