From left: Sharon Henry, 2016 President of Empire Board of Realtists; William Robie,  at 91 the eldest living member of EBR; and  Michelle Calloway, NAREB/EBR Board Vice-Chair.
From left: Sharon Henry, 2016 President of Empire Board of Realtists; William Robie, at 91 the eldest living member of EBR; and
Michelle Calloway, NAREB/EBR Board Vice-Chair.

By Shandra Hill Smith
Excitement is building toward the long-running annual scholarship gala for the nation’s oldest minority trade association. But as the Empire Board of Realtists – the Atlanta chapter of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, Inc. (NAREB) – gears up for the Nov. 5 event at The Ritz-Carlton, it also faces what may be considered a less than celebratory reality. A reality that may actually be, in large part, the reason for the rich history of this organization marking its 77th year.
The Empire Board of Realtists (EBR) today finds that its core objective of “Championing Democracy in History” is still quite relevant, according to 2016 president Sharon Henry.
“As long as there is injustice and inequality in the realm of homeownership there will be a need for Empire and NAREB,” says Henry. “And when equality has been achieved, the objective will then shift from obtaining to maintaining democracy.”
On Jan. 1, Henry began serving her one-year term, which ends Dec. 31. She says her presidency is primarily focused on revitalizing and reinvigorating the organization on a local level.
“Great things have been accomplished by this board and I plan to continue to develop and implement new strategies, tactics and initiatives that provide our member base and constituents with new and exciting opportunities while aligning with our national goals,” says Henry, a Realtist and broker. “NAREB has a strong infrastructure and a host of pillar affiliates. I don’t intend on reinventing the wheel within the organization, just adding new, fresh perspectives and ‘spins’ on what is already established.”
As an example, she pointed to the launching of the Empire REIA – Real Estate Investment Alliance, a division of the United Developer’s Council of NAREB that “will provide our member base with education and tools necessary to partake in the investment arm of real estate. Adding this skill set to their wheelhouse will allow Realtists and all types of real estate practitioners (appraisers, contractors, etc.) who are part of our board to diversify their knowledge and wealth while improving the communities that they serve and represent.”
Since 1958, EBR has held an annual awards and scholarship gala, awarding more than $500,000 in scholarships to high school, college and graduate school students as well as students obtaining professional real estate related training who have gone on to become industry leaders in the public and private sectors throughout the country.
EBR, which is headquartered in historic West End, has adopted the mission of Reimagining the Dream of Homeownership through Advocacy, Activism and Action. It began with African-American real estate professionals forming NAREB after growing dissatisfied with housing conditions for blacks in Atlanta and being denied admission as Realtors into the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The term Realtist resulted as a way to distinguish the professionals, some of which today also are Realtors, as being under the NAREB umbrella. Since its inception, the Empire Real Estate Board, Inc. and more than 90 boards nationwide have joined NAREB as local chapters, says Henry.
A current focus, Henry shares, is to help create two million homeowners over the five-year period of 2016 to 2020.
“Empire Board and NAREB will always remain relevant because homeownership will always be a critical medium to having access to a piece of the American pie,” adds Henry.
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Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.