Indianapolis, IN, has a history of racism. Indianapolis was once the hub of the KKK. Crispus Attucks High School was built to be an all-black public high school partly because some white residents of the city did not want their children to attend an integrated high school. It was built in the area known as the Bottoms, near the canal and Indiana Avenue which a thriving African American community. I have heard, but have not been able to confirm, that it was built close to the city dump. Besides the ugly history of the KKK and segregation in the public schools, there is also a history of redlining in Indianapolis. You can learn more about that in this video.
History of Redlining in Indianapolis, IN
Racism is still a problem in America. A great need today is to deepen understanding, share resources, and forge friendships between people of different races. In cities like Indianapolis, IN, the African American community has great resources and real struggles. Their resources of resilient faith, gracious hospitality, relational warmth and courageous leadership are a cultural treasure. At the same time, their struggle is real: systemic racism continues to inflict trauma; they lack the strong economic foundation and infrastructure of home and business ownership; the instability of broken families leaves many youth without hope.
The struggle of the African American community in Indianapolis might seem like an unmovable mountain. It is not. Jesus said, “if you have faith like the grain of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20). A friendship made in 2012 between a father from the hood, Donteau Gladney, Sr., and a Presbyterian pastor, Jason Dorsey, and the faith that God can move mountains has led to the creation of a business in 2020 to bring people of different races together in a common cause: Faith of a Mustard Seed, F.O.M.
F.O.M. is an Indiana-based social purpose business. (“A Social Purpose Business is a company whose enduring reason for being is to create a better world. It is an engine for good, creating social benefits by the very act of conducting business. Its growth is a positive force in society.”) Our mission is to bring people of different races together around a common cause to share resources, grow in understanding, and forge friendships. The common cause it to renovate homes through by volunteer labor. The goal is to empower African-Americans by providing affordable homes and supporting their businesses. Here is how it works.
Teams of volunteers travel to Indianapolis for a week of work. They arrive in Indianapolis on Friday and leave the following Thursday. Volunteers stay at a host church or in the homes of hosts from a church. The work on revitalizing a home purchased by F.O.M. F.O.M. supervisors ensure that work is done to code, that the work teams are well-managed, and all tools and materials are provided.
Share Resources, Grow Understanding, and forge friendships
These volunteers bring their resources of life and work experiences and character to share. They do not come in as “saviors.” Through the process of renovating a home, developing relationship over meals, telling stories and other cultural experiences, volunteers experience the cultural riches of the African American community: resilient faith, warm hospitality, relational warmth and courageous leadership. Through listening to the voices and stories of African American leaders, patriarch, matriarchs and youth, volunteers grow in understanding the struggle they face. Volunteers are paired with and work alongside an African American. Through conversational starting questions, and conversations that naturally happen while working together, the seeds of friendship are planted.
Providing affordable homes, supporting businesses
By purchasing homes at low prices and renovating them through volunteer labor, F.O.M is able to resale these homes at an affordable price. While not all the homes will be sold to African-Americans, a significant majority of them will be. F.O.M. also hires African-American contractors as well uses African-American owned business to provide support services for each project. We aim to help catalyze an economic infrastructure.
There are a great number of abandoned homes in urban Indianapolis. There are also a great number of African Americans who are renting but who are able to get a mortgage and purchase a home if they had a path to do so. There is also a growing number of young African American pathfinders/leaders who are purchasing homes and planting roots in Indianapolis. We believe that the combination of (1) the opportunity to purchase homes at low prices, (2) these pathfinding leaders, (3) Donteau’s strong relationships in the African American community and his ability to mobilize that community, and (4) Jason’s relationships in the faith community and ability to mobilize volunteers will catalyze home and business ownership in the African American community. Most of all, we believe that people want to share resources, grow in understanding, and forge friendship across racial divides. The time is ripe!
Competitive Advantages and Distinctions
The following advantages and distinctions set apart Faith of a Mustard Seed:
1. There is a growing awareness today of systemic racism and the need to address systemic issues in our nation. Faith of a Mustard seed addressed the lack of an economic infrastructure in the African American community through (1) enabling home ownership by providing affordable homes to African Americans and (2) supporting and catalyzing African-American owned businesses who partner in our efforts.
2. There is a growing desire to build bridges of relationship, community and friendship across racial differences. As a social purpose business, F.O.M. exists to forge these relationships, grow understanding between people, and share resources through participating in a common cause. People today have a strong desire to take real steps towards relationship, and we provide a practical bridge to do so.
3. Mobilizing volunteers to do much of the work on these home renovations, allows for us to sell homes at an affordable, even below market price, and still make a profit. Furthermore, we expect that the social purpose mission of our organization will result in many homeowners and civic institutions helping us acquire homes at very low costs, which will further effect our ability to both offer affordable homes and make money on those home sales.
4. Partnership with churches, faith-based organizations, and not-for-profits, with multiply our efforts. Host churches will help house and feed volunteers, and, potentially, provide us with home-buying clients who are members of the church/organization. This is a win-win because we want every person who buys one of our renovated homes to succeed. They have a better chance to succeed if they are well integrated in a supportive community.
We are going to run a pilot project this September. Jason is recruiting a team of volunteers to work on a home that will be used as the base for F.O.M. The dates we will be working on the home renovation project Saturday, September 12 through Thursday, September 17. Here are ways you could contribute:
Work with us on the work team
Help with a meal
Host a volunteer in your home for a week
Provide funding for construction materials
Donate quality tools
Please let me know if you would like to learn more or would like to help in any way: firstname.lastname@example.org; 317.209.6768.