Navigating the Complexities of Real Estate, Wealth, and Power with Derek Lumpkins and Melony Swasey

Home Resources Navigating the Complexities of Real Estate, Wealth, and Power with Derek Lumpkins and Melony Swasey
Navigating the Complexities of Real Estate, Wealth, and Power with Derek Lumpkins and Melony Swasey
About The Episode Transcript

Dive into the world of redlining and real estate with Derek Lumpkins and Melony Swasey, hosts of the Blacklining Forum podcast. Discover how they are reshaping narratives by centering black and brown perspectives on owning real estate. Learn about anti-racist practices to combat discriminatory practices like redlining. Also, celebrate Women's History Month and its focus on empowerment and resilience in the face of challenges.


[00:01:38] Women's History Month.

[00:04:23] Gender evolution and inclusivity.

[00:10:35] Community building and racial understanding.

[00:14:35] Real estate as wealth pathway.

[00:19:38] BIPOC professionals facing housing challenges.

[00:21:38] Buying the Hood.

[00:27:03] Homeownership and wealth building.

[00:30:20] Tangible benefits of owning property.

[00:33:06] Corporations vs. individuals in property ownership.

[00:38:01] Community responsibility in real estate.

[00:41:47] Market Rent Dilemma

[00:45:18] Exploring new menu options.

[00:49:07] Self-care in a capitalistic society.

[00:52:57] Redlining and real estate wealth.


Links Mentioned:

(00:02 - 00:11) Rachel Murray: Hi, and welcome to the She Geeks Out podcast, where we geek out about workplace inclusion and talk with brilliant humans doing great work, making the world a better and brighter place. I'm Rachel.

(00:12 - 00:49) Felicia Jadczak: And I'm Felicia. In today's episode, we talk with Derek Lumpkins and Melony Swasey co-hosts of the Black Lining Forum podcast. That podcast dives into redlining, the systemic and notorious practice in the home lending industry that's excluded generations of Black people from the housing market and which has devalued Black and brown communities across the United States. In response, they're flipping the script by centering black and brown perspectives, highlighting how and why owning real estate is important, and giving airtime to real estate's intersection with structural racism, hip-hop, reparations, wealth building, and more.

(00:49 - 01:29) Rachel Murray: It was such a fun conversation. It's again one of those, we've got to have them back because we scratched the surface. But before we get into other things, I wanted to make sure that our lovely listeners, we want to make sure that you know that we have many courses available online, some that are related to this topic. You can check them out at If you want to learn more about anti-racist ways to push back against discriminatory practices, such as redlining, we suggest starting with our Building Anti-Racist and Liberation-Focused Workplaces mini course. You can sign up for our mailing list at slash podcast for free access to this course and learn more about what else we have to offer.

(01:29 - 01:34) Felicia Jadczak: Awesome. Definitely check that out. It's free. What do you have to lose? It's also really great if I think so myself.

(01:35 - 01:38) Rachel Murray: Let's get into it.

(01:38 - 01:54) Felicia Jadczak: Happy Women's History Month. Yes. Happy Women's History Month. And the theme of this year's Women's History Month, which I just learned, is all about women who advocate for equity, diversity and inclusion. So I basically feel like this month is all about us.

(01:55 - 02:18) Rachel Murray: Yeah, we're celebrating ourselves. Yeah, no, it's really cool that this year that they're focusing on this particular topic, especially since it's been such a heavy year for DEI and there's been such a pushback. And my understanding, this is one of the reasons why they wanted to come out and specifically focus on this. Felicia, I would just love to hear what your thoughts on Women's History Month and DEI and why they're so connected.

(02:20 - 04:23) Felicia Jadczak: Yeah, I mean, I agree. I think it's great that this is the theme. I think it's going to be really helpful and important to highlight intersectionality in this month, because I feel like for a lot of organizations and for people, too, and for myself included, talking about women was, as I used to say, the gateway drug to DEI. And, you know, when we started working together back in 2013, I had started doing some of this work the year prior, so around like 2012. in my company at the time, they were only talking about women with regards to DEI. The E wasn't even part of the conversation. It was just D and I, all about women. We weren't really talking about a lot of other identity groups. This was really the way that a lot of people started talking about it. While You know, it can be problematic to think about DEI just through the lens of women. I do think that the intersectionality piece is important because there's a lot of ways to dig into it. And of course, when we talk about women's advances. depending on the context and the industry and what we're actually talking about, a lot of times we start to focus just on white women. Then we miss the fact that Black and Brown women and Indigenous women are still left behind in a lot of ways. For example, there's going to be a whole bunch of days starting this spring and going into the rest of this year that will be marking payday notices around when into the year a black woman needs to work to get the same wage as a white woman or a man, right? Or when, you know, a brown woman or indigenous woman and white women too, right? Because we're still underpaid against the dollar. So I think it's going to be a really interesting way to highlight that. And it feels a little bit sort of like coming full circle a bit over the last 10 years as to how the conversation around DEI has evolved from that starting point. So I'm interested to see, you know, I'm hopeful, I guess, is what I want to say. I'm hopeful that intersectionality will be highlighted more this year.

(04:23 - 05:00) Rachel Murray: Yeah, I agree with that too. I think that's, that's so important. And I think that it's, you know, I think about how the language has changed so much to how gender as a concept has evolved so much over the past 10 plus years and how that plays into it, the heteronormative, not just white, but heteronormative and able-bodied young or young-ish. So there's just so many ways to look at it. So I've, I've just, I'm very grateful that there, really expanding this to include all women, not just us lovely white ladies.

(05:00 - 06:10) Felicia Jadczak: The lovely white ladies are part of it too. I mean, just not just. I mean, I think about like when we started working on, you know, doing She Geeks Out back in the day, I guess just over 10 years ago, almost 11 years at this point, You know, we didn't have the Plessner name. It took a while for us. Well, not a long time, but we definitely evolved quite a bit around how we thought about how we were defining women. And, you know, we took a lot of notes from our community and we were dealing with a lot of questions around what does it mean to be a woman? Who are we for? Are we excluding certain groups when we don't want to be, or we do? I do think, to your point, we're still in this day and age where we're seeing that trans and non-binary folks are dying and being murdered and having laws passed against them. I'll just say again, well, not again. I don't know if I've said this in this podcast before, but I'll say it. Trans women are women, you know, and so we have to just continue to have this discussion. But I do think we've also evolved quite a bit. Right. Agreed. Like we weren't using pronouns when we first started. It was not a thing that we really talked about.

(06:10 - 06:18) Rachel Murray: Exactly. Exactly. Well, thank you so much for sharing your insights. And I think it's time. What do you think?

(06:18 - 07:07) Felicia Jadczak: Let's do it. We have a lot to talk about. So let's just get into it officially with our discussion with Derek and Melony. All right. Hi, Rachel. Hey, Felicia. And we have not one, but two guests today. So very exciting. Derek and Melanie, welcome to the pod. Thanks for joining us. Thanks for having us. We're going to jump in because we've got a lot to ask you about and a lot to talk about. I was just telling Rachel before we started, I'm feeling so inspired because I was listening to some of your episodes on my lunch break. So I have even more questions percolating. But why don't we just start with who you both are? If you could tell us a little bit about each of you and maybe even talk a little bit about your your joint podcast as well, the Blacklining Forum.

(07:07 - 07:10) Derek Lumpkins: Sure, Melony, why don't you go first?

(07:10 - 08:03) Melony Swasey: OK, let's see. I am a residential real estate agent. with Sotheby's International Realty in the Boston area, where I've lived for about 20 years. That's part of how I know Felicia. Derek and I are longtime friends. I suppose you could say business partners because I've been his realtor over the years. Derek is a longtime Boston resident, community communicator, mobilizer, thinker. And it was his idea that we found the podcast that we founded earlier this year. I'm excited to have him talk to you about it. But it's called the Black Lining Forum. And broadly, we're engaging a conversation with thinkers of all walks of life, community activists, entrepreneurs, sort of civic innovators, around questions of Black wealth, power, and land. And Derek, you take it from there.

(08:04 - 08:10) Derek Lumpkins: So your intro, you introed me in your intro. I don't know if you realized I did that. So I'm going to turn the tables a little bit.

(08:10 - 08:15) Felicia Jadczak: I was going to mention, I was like so funny. Melony's like, hi, Melanie. And then also let me tell you all about Derek.

(08:15 - 08:16) Derek Lumpkins: Right, right.

(08:16 - 08:18) Melony Swasey: I'd rather talk to you about Derek.

(08:19 - 08:55) Derek Lumpkins: Well, let me introduce you, Melony. I'll introduce you. So I'm Derek Lumpkins. I'm Derek Lumpkins, and I am a native Bostonian. So I've lived in Boston most of my life, although I am currently doing the digital nomad thing. And I'm in Barcelona, Spain. I've been here for a little bit. Melanie and I first met back in 2008. No, 2010. 2010, when Melanie was working at a newspaper as a reporter. And then we stayed in touch. So when Melanie joined the real estate world, she helped me with buying my first house. I already had the condo, then you helped me buy the house.

(08:55 - 08:56) Melony Swasey: And then a multifamily after that.

(08:56 - 09:48) Derek Lumpkins: I was just about to say that, yes. And then you helped me buy the multifamily as well. And you helped me sell my house also, which got me to becoming a digital nomad. So I am a real estate investor. I'm also a consultant. I do diversity, equity, inclusion consulting. Although I say that my business is equity and community engagement consulting, because I really do try to get people thinking about working in community versus working as a collection of individuals. And so, you know, that's kind of how I think about a lot of things. So after Melony and I did the session for the How to Bostom a Black Summit, and we had all these questions online, in person and just elsewhere, people were stopping us. I said, Hey, do you want to do this podcast? And Melanie had her thoughts on that. We had to work through those thoughts, but then we decided to talk about it more. And then we eventually got to the podcast.

(09:49 - 10:18) Rachel Murray: I love this, and thank you both for introducing each other. That was chef's kiss, beautiful. We should just do that all the time if we ever have two folks on. I also wanted to hear a little bit too, Derek, you also participated in YW Boston's Lead Boston program as well, which I did a little internet stalking. Yes, you did. Yes, you did. Or Felicia did. We both did. We both stalked you.

(10:18 - 10:22) Felicia Jadczak: It's a joint process. Yeah. I guess we're joint stalkers. All right. Anyway, I'll see.

(10:24 - 10:48) Rachel Murray: But we'd just love to hear about how that experience shaped maybe some of your thinking in getting more involved beyond sort of investing into really diving into this work. Into the work of consulting or into the work of community building, of understanding these sort of deeper issues around race and real estate.

(10:48 - 12:48) Derek Lumpkins: Sure. So as a native of Boston, I'm from the neighborhood. of Roxbury. And Roxbury has, for the past 50 to 80 years, been predominantly Black, mostly lower income, but it still was the home of MLK, of Malcolm X. It was where a lot of the jazz clubs were. It has a lot of visual artists. And so, you know, It's easy to describe Roxbury as being poor because it doesn't have a high, a lot of income, but I actually like to say that it's very rich because it's rich in a lot of ways in terms of arts, culture, history, cuisine, and a lot of other things. So when I started working as the executive director of a nonprofit that was created to promote and support the arts, culture, and history of Roxbury, I came up, came against a lot of people who were detracting from the neighbor. They were saying, well, what's really there? Is it really worth my going? Why would we support this? Why would we support you? And so I could see the inequities of response. I could see the inequities in terms of the vision and the perspectives on a neighborhood level, let alone on an individual level. And so I thought, OK, well, I need to find ways to expand what we're doing, not just in terms of me talking to more people, but getting more buy-in from other people as well. So when the opportunity came for me to participate in Lead Boston, it was just a different platform for me to meet people from across the region who are working on different issues of equity, social justice, equality, race, racism, all of those things. And so it's just a way for me to sort of spread the word and also learn from others, because there are a lot of individual practitioners, but we're really not well networked in Boston. I think that's changed a little bit over time, but this was just an opportunity to really broaden my network, deepen it in some ways, and expand it beyond just Roxbury, beyond just the city of Boston. And now it goes a little bit further into other states, actually. So that's kind of what got me involved.

(12:48 - 14:51) Felicia Jadczak: That's great. Thank you for that. It's interesting because I was taking notes on my phone as I was listening to some of your episodes earlier. I want to circle back to the podcast that we touched on briefly. The name, just in case anyone missed it for our listeners, is called The Blacklining Forum. It's available on all the platforms and definitely check it out. And so you two were on the panel at this summit, Boston Ball Black, which is also another friend of the pod, Sheena Collier, who's a baby and she supports us, put this on. She's been on our podcast way back in the day and we, of course, know and love her. And so you were a panelist and moderator and then you've started to do these episodes. And so I want to kind of circle back because The things that were sticking in my mind from some of your conversations that I've heard from both of you is thinking about real estate as this pathway or access point into not just wealth but power. Of course, there's so much complexity there because of the history of how wealth is transferred. Rachel and I have been talking a lot lately about what's been going on in the world and things like who owns land and how you get access to it. How does that translate over time? Maybe, Melony, if you want to start us off. Then, of course, Derek, if you want to jump in, I'd love to have you talk a little bit more about the intersection of wealth, land, and power, especially with the lens of Boston. You're both Boston-based and you're both Black. What does Black wealth mean for the community in Boston and beyond around how we can be thinking about and how you are both thinking about real estate as this access point into stability, power, generational wealth, all of those things. I know that's a huge question. I'm just saying, please give me a great answer for this. But maybe we can start with how you're thinking about why it's so important to be talking about this just to start off with. Thank you. Yeah, I can do that. You're like, I'll take a piece of that. I'll bite off a chunk.

(14:51 - 20:32) Melony Swasey: And because my brain always needs to close loops, I'm like, oh, right, Derek. It was 2008. I was doing freelance writing for the Bay State Banner, which is a Black-owned regional newspaper. It was the year that Barack Obama was elected. I was actually at the Bay State Banner on election night. And one of the beats that I was doing as a freelance writer was something around community arts. And I met Derek. at one of his Discover Roxbury events at Wally's Cafe, which is a historic jazz cafe. I love that place. He really used to be. I know, me too. Right, so what we think of as one of the more well-to-do, what not we think of, what is one of the more well-to-do, wealthy, expensive, hard-to-access neighborhoods in the Boston, financially hard to access, was historically Black. There's so much complexity. So that takes me, then, to trying to think about how do we start to answer the big, broad question you opened up, Felicia, which is, I think I come at this from stating a problem, because I interface with the problem all the time. And where Derek was saying people can think about Roxbury, we could keep talking about that, because it's a cultural nexus in the city. It's a seat of civic engagement. and political power among Black folks, but it is economically way disadvantaged. It's just been kept poorer, but that's not incidental, it's not accidental. That's because of redlining. It's because people in that neighborhood could not get financing to do more than, well, to not acquire new homes, to not refurbish their homes, right? If you had a home that somehow your family acquired, you're holding onto it for dear life, And that's the best you could do, right? So there's high rental concentration, but not necessarily homeownership or the transfer of wealth where there's sort of an increase in family wealth. People can sell what they have and move out of the neighborhood, but they may not be able to buy elsewhere in Boston or because of gentrification may not be able to buy again in the same neighborhood that they've just sold in, right? So that's the problem. I think part of what I've been interfacing more directly over the last several years as the Boston market has gotten tighter and tighter and more and more competitive and expensive and exclusive, right, and this well predated the pandemic, is that It's like a strange juxtaposition. I see a generation of BIPOC professionals who are doing very well in their fields, who are sought after as talent, who are earning more money than their previous generation could have imagined, right? They've got advanced degrees, but they can't necessarily buy in these neighborhoods. Right? Not even necessarily in Roxbury. They just can't. And it's not even that they may not earn enough, but it's that they don't have enough wealth to bring to the table to compete with other people who have wealth. And those people that they're competing with have wealth by dint of family money. And that family money is by dint of handing down resources from home equity, from owning homes for generations. That's white people. It's very clear. It's very plain. So even among a professional class who should be able to navigate these markets with some kind of ease, they just can't. And I have to be very frank with people up front when they come to me and talk about their choices. Well, I'm thinking about this. And I'm like, no matter who you are, whether you're coming with family or money or not, I have to say to you, the market doesn't care what you like or what you want. It really is, it comes down to constraints of how proximate you need to be to public transport and parks and whatnot, all the sort of community minis that are exciting. And can you afford to compete to have that? Or are you forced to think not just of the suburbs, because we're not even talking about inner ring suburbs anymore. We're not even talking about outer ring suburbs, like some of the working class, what we consider blue collar suburbs, like Lynn, like Brockton. We're thinking about, people are having to think about, I'm saying more extreme, but this is very much in play, parts of New Hampshire, parts of Rhode Island. And I see you all shaking your heads. I know you know this. You must know this from your own- Oh, I mean, I'm loving it. Yeah. I figured I'd let you say that. And yeah, it's what's in the air. So if folks who have family resource are that constraint, imagine folks who have been systematically shut out from their families being able to build wealth. So it's frankly enraging. And we're trying to name it and name what would it be to subvert that. And what would it be for us to empower BIPOC professionals, especially, of this certain generation to know that in a very plain way, see it for what it is, and start deliberately making choices that can help upend that for them and their families. We need to name the thing so people understand it enough to take it seriously and start taking steps to reverse it for themselves and the people around them. So that's why we're trying to have these conversations. The implications are big and broad, because there is an out-migration right now. lots of data on it. The Boston Foundation is focusing on it. They're trying to figure out how to close the racial wealth gap specifically by focusing on housing, right? This is a regional issue. It's a state issue. It's a brain drain issue. It is a major economic issue that Black folks are getting priced out of these communities.

(20:33 - 20:34) Rachel Murray: Derek, did you want to add? Go ahead.

(20:34 - 22:40) Derek Lumpkins: Yeah, I'm trying to think of how to answer the question, because Melony answered it very eloquently. But I tend to think in terms of snapshots. And so I remember maybe about 20 years ago, I was on a bus. And it was a very empty bus. But I overheard these two older women talking about the changes in the neighborhood. And they said, oh, here come all these developers. We're going to have to move out. And this was 20 years ago. And it was just before the rock the vote campaign started and around the time rock the boat came out by the hood that slogan also came out. And so I was kind of like, hmm, by the hood, what could that potentially mean? And so that kind of got me thinking about, well, what can I buy? Because I moved back to Roxbury, and I could see a lot of the changes that were happening in terms of development, in terms of displacement, in terms of gentrification, the demographic shifts. And I'm like, things are moving. Things were in play. Things were in flux. And I was like, hmm, there must be opportunities. Because I can't buy, as Melanie was saying, I can't buy. I was living in JP at one point. I was like, I can't buy here. I can't buy in East Boston. I can't buy in certain places. And the realtors were all telling me to look at Dorchester. I'm like, I don't want to be in Dorchester. Nothing wrong with it. But being a Roxbury guy, I was like, I want to be in my home neighborhood. And so I was thinking, okay, how do I buy the hood? And so as I started noticing more and more people that I knew moving out, either moving to other parts of the city or moving out of the city altogether, I was like, I need my own piece of stability. And so that got me thinking about, OK, how can I do it? And once I did it, I was like, how do I help other people start thinking about that too? Because if I'm seeing it within a year or two of when I was starting to think about buying stuff, and again, being a native Bostonian, it was important for me to be in my home neighborhood. I wanted to help other people think about that as well and think about how they could do it and why it was important. But one person can only do so much with limited resource. So I was trying to help other people understand how to pull the levers that would allow them to do it too. But it just wasn't enough. As Melanie is saying, people just don't have the resources in order to do that or to do it fast enough in order to remain where they want to be or to go where they want to go.

(22:43 - 23:54) Rachel Murray: I have follow up. This is so interesting. And I think both Felicia knows, we both talk about real estate actually a lot. So we think about it a lot. And I live in Southern California now, so I moved right before the pandemic, but I did own a condo in JP. I was very lucky in 2012, we got a condo. And I think a lot about rent versus buying and how it, you know, at the time, I mean, it was almost like it was like a visceral feeling like, I was like, I feel like I'm throwing money away every time I pay a rent check. And I don't want to do it anymore. But I think about the way it is now. and the market is so uneven, it is so unfair, it feels like it's more unfair than it's ever been. And so I wonder, like, does it even make sense right now to think that home equity will continue to be the wealth generator for folks over other possible avenues? Big question that was not included, sorry. A big, big, broad question.

(23:54 - 23:59) Melony Swasey: I have to think beyond all typical assumptions. So I'm going to let that question land.

(23:59 - 25:19) Derek Lumpkins: No rush. Well, what I was expecting Melony to say was that it depends on the market, because different markets have different, you're starting at different points. So I'm invested both in Boston and in Chicago. So looking at Boston, buying something in Boston and trying to, you can see very quick appreciation, but you have to buy so high. You have to spend so much just to get on the first rung of the ladder. and then you have to hold onto it for a certain amount of time. And in between those two points, you're paying a lot and you're hoping you're getting those rents, that you could get some equity out of that. But it's just a matter of how much you have to spend just to get in and then can you get out at the right point. versus a city like Chicago where you can get in at a much lower rate. You can get in at half the amount that it costs to get into Boston. Your appreciation will be so much slower. It's almost flat. But you can earn. So if you're renting, so let's say you get a two-family or three-family building, you can earn money that way. And so you're able to appreciate. Your appreciation will be slower, but you'll make some equity and make some liquidity in that sense. So I think it depends on the market. I'm not saying I know much about many markets, but those two I have some familiarity with. But Melanie, I'm curious to see how you would answer that question.

(25:19 - 25:20) Melony Swasey: So, okay.

(25:20 - 25:25) Felicia Jadczak: Yes, and. So I agree with you. That's like our favorite thing to say, sorry. Yes, and.

(25:27 - 29:09) Melony Swasey: You know, all right, all that is true, Derek. And I would say that if you're taking the Chicago approach, you could apply that Chicago approach, you know, not to make these kind of prescriptive suggestions here, especially because everything is so subject to time. And so we're not giving real estate advice. But I'm just saying at this moment, theoretically, you could do what one could do what you're proposing about the Chicago market even closer to the Boston area. You could do that in Providence right now, where there actually is appreciation. Rents are rising because Providence is basically becoming a suburb of Boston. And so your appreciation isn't flat, actually. And so there's upside there. There's always going to be markets like that where you can do that. So I'm fine with that thought. But that approach doesn't apply to everyone. Thinking about people who need to spend their money where they're going to live first and or have to figure out how to raise a family or take care of a family with dependents, whether they're children or elder parents, there's just a lot of layers. I heard Rachel's question bigger and broader, which is that Generationally, are we at a point that's pivoting where this is no longer the way that people are going to have their financial solidity, stability, in the same way that pensions are basically going out of vote, right? Do we rethink or are we forced to rethink how people actually generate equity, wealth, something they can hold on to? I don't know. I'm really trying to still think about that. I think it's really hard to get around how important homeownership still is. It just is. Because that's the land we most occupy. Someone's got that equity. It's a question of, can we keep it open so more and more people can get that equity? Someone's going to own the land that we live on. That's a wealth builder no matter what. So I'm trying to think about the question out loud. And so I don't want to say that just because, historically, it's been very exclusive. And because of housing shortages all around the country, it's getting harder and harder. I wouldn't want to say that, oh, that's not the way. Maybe it's not the only way, but it is still a primary way of wealth building, especially because it's more and more exclusive. It's more and more valuable. So the question is that for younger generations, if they're not going to be inheriting some of that really valuable land, really valuable property, how else can they do that? I think that's the question. And I really do not know. I would love to hear what finance people, people who are in the equity markets, think about that. I'm very curious. There's something unique about owning real estate, which is that it's a tangible asset. It's also, it just kind of blows my mind when we think about recycling. I'm like, real estate is really recycling. You're over and over again repurposing a thing. Even if you tear down a property or majorly renovate it or overhaul it, you are repurposing a thing that is in a place. And that's not as subject to the vicissitudes of markets. I mean, even if you have a whole block burns down, there's some implications of recovering that from insurance. It's such a valuable, tangible asset. It is hard to match that. And that's why I almost feel like crying. That's why it's so important. That's why it's so valuable. And that's why generationally it needs to be opened back up or opened up.

(29:09 - 29:09) Rachel Murray: I don't know.

(29:09 - 29:10) Melony Swasey: So what were you going to say, Rachel?

(29:11 - 29:19) Rachel Murray: Oh, no, that was that was great. And I just wanted to say that I agree. And thank you for taking my tough, unprompted question. I really do.

(29:19 - 29:25) Felicia Jadczak: Right in the wings with another unprompted question. So much stuff percolating. Sorry, continue Rachel.

(29:25 - 30:20) Rachel Murray: No, I mean, this is just a fascinating conversation. And I just, I really appreciate your, your thoughtfulness there. And, and I feel like, you know, when you do talk to a financial planner, they just tell you to throw all the money in the stock market. But to your point, I so agree with you, like in my heart and soul, this is why I still feel this way is because it is a tangible asset, something that you are using, something that feels like you have more control over. Then, you know, buying, you know, Starbucks stock or whatever garbage that you're lining other people's pockets with that money. Don't get me started. I'm going to go down a rabbit hole. I'm not. I'm going to pull myself back out of it. Just to say I agree with you. And I just hope that regulation, regulating these and these like BlackRock investors and having that nonsense stop so that people can actually buy will hopefully help something But, you know, I don't know if that's going to happen, but I just want to put a pitch, put that out in the universe for 2024.

(30:20 - 32:44) Melony Swasey: Before Felicia jumps on with her things, I just want to say, like, let's just name some of the tangible, practical benefits of owning property. We're not even just talking about the sentimental aspects of owning your home that you're going to live in. But it is being able, if you took on financing to acquire the property, generally speaking, you're writing off mortgage interest. You're getting tax benefits from owning property. If you own property that you're renting out, not only are you being able to take off various deductions, you're able to depreciate the property from a tax perspective. So you're able to write off rental expenses. You can do so much. That's part of the control. You actually can handle the thing. You can take benefit from the thing. You can draw from the equity. So your property can be, in its own right, an ATM for you. You could pull money out of that to leverage to buy your next property, which is what young investors, meaning newer investors, do. That's part of what Derek probably has been able to do. You're pulling equity out of one property, putting it into the next one. What other assets allow you to do that? Right, so that's where the power comes from, is the power to make choices to leverage, to turn, to reinvest, to reinvest not only in property, but in yourself, in your family, to send someone in your family to college. You're setting them up. I mean, if I'm telling you about the people who primarily are able to buy in these markets that I'm working with, no matter where they are on the age spectrum, if they're buying for the first time, or the second time, or the third time, or they're downsizing, they're doing that in some way facilitated by family wealth from the beginning or continuous family wealth that's being handed down to them, that's allowing them to make these moves. And that's significant. That's significant. So to be able to say, oh, I know I'm going to be able to make a move here. I'm going to be able to buy this second home. I'm going to be able to buy this home that my elder parents can live in so We don't have to put them in care or that my parents could live in so I don't have to pay for a nanny. Like, that's power. That's not even talking about the communal, the community impact of being able to do that. But just for one household, that's where some of the power begins. And we're trying to make it so that BIPOC people understand that they need to grab at that fiercely.

(32:45 - 36:04) Felicia Jadczak: I feel like I want to go in 10 different directions. I'm going to just drop and plant a couple seeds, but I have a question that I want to definitely go down in a pathway with you both. The seeds I want to just plant really quickly first to respond to what you've both been chatting about, all four of us actually. is the fact that a lot of people are coming into the market nowadays. They're not actually people, they are investment firms. We're not just competing against rich people, we're competing against companies who have all of the resources. That's further creating this divide between human beings who can own property and corporations. That's one huge topic I just want to name out there. The second thing is something that I've been seeing a lot of on like, you know, TikTok, especially where, you know, there's this discussion of as especially the millennial generation is aging and their parents are aging. A lot of people are talking about this potential transfer of wealth where, you know, I've been told, oh, the the boomers will die. We'll inherit all this money. We'll finally get money. Millennials won't have to, you know, choose between avocado toast and whatever. But nursing homes are like entering the chat basically. And they're like, hello, we would like all of this money. And so how that dynamic is going to play out. Those are just the two seats I want to plant. I'm happy to come back to that. But the thing I wanted to get into with you both, I told you had a lot percolating up here, is the investment piece of it. And we've all sort of touched on this at various points. I know we've all had experience at various points. And when I mentioned earlier that I'm sort of like living what you were describing, Melony. So during the pandemic, I ended up moving out to Western Massachusetts and I bought a duplex. So I am now both a first-time homebuyer and a first-time landlord. so I have an investment property and my own property. I have been really just thinking so much about my power and my privilege and my place in all of this discussion on a very personal level because, and this is where I would love to hear your thoughts from both of you on this, is because I feel really responsible for both being part of a wave of gentrification that's coming into my little town where Money is coming in, and it's definitely changing the dynamics. It's changing the demographics. My neighborhood is the poorest neighborhood in my city. There are Spanish-speaking people who are having to move out. There are black and brown people who are having to move out. And while I consider myself a brown person, my husband's very white, and we have more money than a lot of people. Our house is the most expensive house at the time when we bought it, and we have tenants. I really struggled with just even how much do I charge rent. Because if I charged quote-unquote market rate, they wouldn't be able to stay there. But I also feel a real commitment and a real obligation to supporting the neighborhood that I've chosen to make my home in. I know that I'm not charging market rent, but then there's always this dilemma of, it's my investment property, so how do I maximize my investment as a business person? But also, how do I handle being somebody who is in this place of real true privilege? I'm curious With both of you, your thoughts around that, because I know this is probably something that you both had to think about as well, or sort of how that's come up for you. So I'll stop talking now, but that's my question.

(36:04 - 38:32) Derek Lumpkins: So I think the equivalent for me is when I buy in Chicago, when I have bought in Chicago, because I was buying multifamilies there where there were tenants who were already in the units. In Boston, I've been more or less lucky to buy a multifamily that was vacant, so I didn't have that concern. as much. But in Chicago, I was like, okay, I want to buy. So generally when I buy in Chicago, when I buy anywhere, I try to buy in sort of a middle tier neighborhood. So not one that has a whole lot of wealth, a whole lot of like luxury units, and not one that is still like trying to recover from some of the things that happened over the past couple of generations. I want to buy in a place where I'm trying to catch people as they're moving from the lower income neighborhoods up to sort of like a middle class neighborhood to give them like that a nicer place because I want to invest my places, I want them to be nice. And I want people who are rising up the economic ladder to have a nice place to move into. But conversely, if the economy were to sort of decline, those folks who are moving from the more wealthy neighborhoods, I want to make sure that I catch them on the way down too. So I try to buy those middle neighborhoods. So in terms of buying those neighborhoods, especially places where people are already living, where I already have tenants, I try to negotiate with the seller to a point where I know the rents are going to have to go up because they're selling. And so just the fact that they're selling and they're selling at a higher point that they bought at, that I will have to try to make the rents work while those leases, before those leases expire. And for the most part, I've been able to make that happen. So I consciously go in thinking I don't want to evict any tenants. If they've been there for six months or they've been there for six years, I want to make sure that they still have the choice to stay in their homes. I may go up $50. I may go up $100. It's not a significant amount, but I do have to make the numbers work or else there's no point in me even going in in the first place. So it is a very delicate balancing act, both in terms of the commitment to community, but also making the numbers work. I have just been in a very fortunate position where I have been able to make the numbers work. But I also tell my realtor in Chicago, I want to buy a building where I don't have to evict people. And I have found sellers who want to sell to a buyer who doesn't want to push the tenants out. So everybody has been dancing this dance that has been able to make it work, at least in my situations. And so I've just been very fortunate in that sense.

(38:34 - 39:07) Felicia Jadczak: Yeah. And just to jump in super quick before we hear from you, Melony, I think that was part of the factor with us because we told the sellers that we did not want the existing tenants to be kicked out. And I feel very grateful that I'm able to give that stability to them. And that's also been a concern where we have raised a little bit and they have come to us and are like, We want to buy something too, but we have student loans and we can't afford. How much will you keep raising it, basically? I appreciate that balancing act, but Melanie would love to hear your thoughts as well, too.

(39:07 - 43:01) Melony Swasey: Yeah. I mean, delicate is a really good word because there's so much responsibility and complexity that comes with it. I'll start by saying that a two-family is not necessarily an income generator, right? The rent that comes in from the second unit, if you're going to occupy that two-family as your primary home, the rent that's coming in from the rental unit is going to offset your expenses, but it's not necessarily going to bring you cash flow, OK? So you're already not functioning quite like an investor who's going after maximum cash flow. You want to figure out how to have good relations with your neighbor. bringing enough money to help sustainably support owning this property and tending to it, maintaining it over time. I think it gets more complicated when there are enough units that you actually have cash flow. And you have to figure out, you've paid a certain amount, like Derek was saying, to acquire this property. You need it to not only cover expenses, but to actually make you money. And how cheaply are you getting it? What neighborhood are you getting it in? One of the ironies that I think is hard for people to think about when they're a landlord who has this mindset is that you actually, it benefits you and it frankly very much benefits your tenant to have their rent, even if it's going to be below market rent, have it be aware, you know, everyone's aware that it's below market rent is important, honestly. and that that rent still increase every year, that it's almost like hygiene, that they understand the rent is going up, even if it's in tiny increments. The reason is if a tenant who's been in a lower priced rental situation has been there for 12 years, 15 years, I've had seen situations where people have been renting for 20 years and now it's time for the landlord to sell the building. They're used to paying such below market rent. They have no idea. what they're facing out there. And then they are seriously in displacement range. They don't know where to go. So it's complicated. I've had a situation where a client of mine purposefully kept the rent way below market in a very sought after community location for a long time. And everyone understood they were below market rents, and she barely raised the rent ever. But I think there was this mindset of like, oh, well, when I'm ready to move on, I'll just move on from this building. And we went to sell that building recently. And one of the tenants who was paying, like, you almost could not imagine, you could not wrap your mind around how little rent they were paying, honestly, were like, we don't want to be displaced and made it very complicated and interrupted a sale because they said they weren't going to move. And so, no, did this landlord who had been charging below market rents purposely for 20 years think that she would ever be in a situation where she's being accused of displacing tenants? No, she didn't think that. And she's just like, I'm ready to sell my building, and now I'm ready to take my money back out. And she's being constrained in doing that. I think it is important to have these values, but you also have to understand how that wedge, that sword, can slice in multiple directions. And you have to be really matter of fact about the thing. You have to really admit and understand that you're in a capitalist economy. And if you want to benefit from market appreciation, you're going to need to be prepared to take hits left and right if you're trying to really accommodate these needs in the way that you're describing. So you may not be able to sell your property at market value when it's time to sell. And in the meantime, if you're charging below market rent, still you should be increasing the rent little by little so people are in the habit of paying more and more so they're not completely in a freeze, lurch, what do I do now? When something happens in your life that means automatically or immediately I have to sell this building. So you have to think about the full arc of ownership, not just the acquisition side, but how do you get out?

(43:01 - 44:09) Rachel Murray: Yeah, super helpful. Thank you both. First of all, Melony, you're so wise. So thank you for sharing that. That was really important to hear. And it's, it's sobering because it's like, Oh, yes, right. We're all in this capitalistic society. And we just wish that we could just all, you know, have all of the resources that we want, without any of the bad things. And that's just not realistic. And so I just appreciate that. And I feel like we did not get to basically any of our questions that we were gonna ask about redlining. And we touched upon it, but I think we could literally have another conversation about sort of, particularly around the history of Boston in particular with so much segregation in the city. But I do, I wanna honor your time. And I would like to, if it's okay with Felicia, move to some of our fun questions. Lighten it up a little bit. And the first question that we love to ask is, what are you currently geeking out about? But it is not something that is related to your work.

(44:10 - 44:18) Derek Lumpkins: So I'm in Barcelona. I've been here for a bit. I get tired of tapas. But what I've noticed is that when you get outside… Poor Derek.

(44:18 - 44:30) Melony Swasey: He's getting tired of tapas. This is when we talk about reparations and recovery, that this black man is like, oh, my God.

(44:31 - 44:41) Rachel Murray: I'm done. Can I just say, Derek, I think you need to have a new podcast. And I think it should be called Tired of Tapas. All about your adventures in Barcelona.

(44:41 - 44:44) Derek Lumpkins: That's what Instagram is for. That's what Instagram is for.

(44:46 - 44:48) Melony Swasey: about travel, you guys.

(44:48 - 44:57) Derek Lumpkins: Oh, there you go. No, I have a podcast called Things They Don't Teach Us. And so we have an episode that's about travel.

(44:57 - 45:01) Felicia Jadczak: I'll teach you that you'll get tired of tapas, but let me tell you.

(45:01 - 45:07) Melony Swasey: Who will drool if you follow his Instagram about his like daily life in Europe? It's ridiculous.

(45:07 - 45:35) Derek Lumpkins: This is a good segue back to what I was saying around, I'm in Barcelona, I'm a little tired of tapas. And so I started walking around and I started noticing they have the menus of the day in certain restaurants. And so what I've been doing now is trying to find a new place to go every so many days to try out a new menu of the day. So that's what I'm geeking out about. Like, where am I going to find this menu? How much is it? Like, what do they have? Kind of, do I understand what's on the menu? Just all the things. So that is what I'm geeking out about right now.

(45:35 - 46:54) Melony Swasey: I've been geeking out about gym training. So I'm coming up on a year of doing, you too, of training in a gym. And so I go to a small studio gym in my neighborhood. I've had three different trainers there that I've seen simultaneously. And at this point, I'm at the level of what's called power training. So I do a lot of weightlifting. And I did it because of various enigmatic, strange issues around my health where I realized I needed a systematic way to drop weight. And that has worked, but I'm also doing it in a way that's like really a discipline. It's like spiritual almost, but definitely emotional discipline. It's a place that I go to is just for me. Nothing else is happening during that time except focusing on refining. this ability to train and get stronger and be more precise and efficient. And I love it. I love the attention, the time, the attention that I'm taking to it, but the attention my trainers are putting into me, the music, like literally I have one of my trainers will make a soundtrack just for me for each workout. And it's like, it's really like about pouring myself back into myself. And so I will say that that's been a gift.

(46:54 - 46:55) Rachel Murray: Oh my gosh.

(46:55 - 47:02) Felicia Jadczak: Well, next question might tie into some of what you both just shared, but what are your favorite ways to practice self-care?

(47:02 - 47:44) Derek Lumpkins: Leaving America. I mean, just being real, just being real. I quit my job, I sold my house, I bought a one-way ticket and I came to Spain. More specifically, I suppose, it's reading. So I'm trying to actually read books more. I'm not doing a great job. I bought a book a month ago and I haven't finished it yet and it's not that big of a book, but just reading more and being in conversation with community a lot more too. So, you know, whether it's with Melony or my other friend with the two podcasts that we do with the new people that are meeting here in Barcelona, um, and just trying to just be in community and build community, because again, I don't have a community here. So for me, it's about building community as well as being in community.

(47:44 - 47:46) Felicia Jadczak: What about you, Melony?

(47:46 - 48:06) Melony Swasey: I just want to say, I attest to that. Like actually. having weekly or every couple weeks calls with Derek is its own kind of bomb, because he is so relaxed. Like, there's just something so beautifully glowing and relaxed since he's left the US, I'm not gonna lie. I'm like, what is this softness? I'm like,

(48:08 - 48:09) Derek Lumpkins: Not soft before.

(48:09 - 48:32) Rachel Murray: Well, Melony, I will say I moved to San Diego in December of 2019. And I think it's Boston that makes you hard. And don't get me wrong, like the US is like very dramatic. Cannot even handle what's happening either. But San Diego has definitely made me soft too. So maybe it's just considering a different part of the country.

(48:33 - 49:05) Melony Swasey: And I'm not saying, no Derek, I'm not even saying you were hard. It just, there's something that is different that I feel. And I'm like, it's like, it's like pulls me. It's like a light. I'm like, oh, I can have that. It makes me want more softness and space. You know, like yesterday I woke up sick and Derek and I had a scheduled podcast to do. And I'm like, do I do the podcast or do I not? I'm sort of like beating myself up about like, how are we going to reschedule this? And I don't know if we can reschedule it because that's going to take forever to reschedule. I should just do it. The patriarchy.

(49:05 - 49:07) Derek Lumpkins: Don't let the patriarchy hold you down.

(49:07 - 49:20) Felicia Jadczak: It's true. And you mentioned before the capitalistic society. I mean, come on now. We're we're living in a world that's like trying to just grind us down. So I appreciate that. It's not in the grind.

(49:20 - 51:32) Melony Swasey: And I could feel that. And it is so like it like buoys me. I'm like, Oh, OK. So I will attest to that, that that is definitely self-care on his part. And for me, I think a lot of it actually ties back to this practice of training my body, which is almost because I want to do well at the training, I have to get better and better at understanding my hormones at this age in my life. and how that plays out with my energy, and what I can eat and not eat before or after I train, or what days I'm not going to train. I have to think about all that, and I have to sleep enough. There are all these things that I'm learning how to prioritize my actual health, not because it's a good idea and I know big picture it's important, but because of the thing right before me. I want to show up and be able to actually be fully engaged when I train and not suffer afterward. how to, and keep meeting my targets. So, all right, the next layer of this is I have to make sure that I'm getting seven to eight hours of sleep at night. Okay, that's my next thing. So I would say that, but my first thought is naps. Like I just, I'm a napper. I can fall asleep in 30 seconds. Like right now, if you guys say, okay, we're going to have nap time, I will be asleep in less than a minute. Like I probably, cause you know, over worked, but also cause I love to nap and I'm like, I want to make more room for that in my life. I love to nap and I love to amble in the woods. So I live a four minute walk from the Arnold Arboretum. in Boston, and I love to just walk in the Arboretum and just stroll with no agenda, no idea what time it is, not looking at a clock, not listening to messages, not taking calls, just maybe listening to a podcast or listening to music and just ambling aimlessly. Those things are two prime self-care. I'm also a yoga practitioner and whatnot, but when I'm not on the mat, when I'm not doing a formal practice, and I can go months not doing a formal practice, This is all part of the practice, is dropping in to your nervous system and going to a place where you don't know. You're just letting things be. So napping and ambling are two ways that that happens for me.

(51:32 - 51:33) Rachel Murray: That's amazing.

(51:33 - 51:39) Felicia Jadczak: Thank you both so, so much. Where can people find you if they are looking to follow up with you or learn about any of the things that you've mentioned so far?

(51:39 - 51:59) Derek Lumpkins: Should we start with the podcast, the Black Lightning Forum? You can find it on LinkedIn, the Black Lightning Forum podcast. That's also an Apple podcast and YouTube. Individually, we're both on Instagram. So my Instagram handle is the Deluxe Chronicles. There's only one E, so D-L-U-X, so the Deluxe Chronicles.

(52:00 - 52:12) Melony Swasey: My personal handle is Melony, M-E-L-O-N-Y, Swasey, S-W-A-S-E-Y. That's my personal handle. My business handle is Good Boston Living.

(52:12 - 52:19) Derek Lumpkins: And I forgot my consultancy. So that is Refresh Strategies. So you can find that at

(52:21 - 52:25) Felicia Jadczak: Awesome. Thank you both so much. We'll have you back for sure. Absolutely.

(52:25 - 52:33) Rachel Murray: And we'll put all of the good links in the show notes. Go follow them. They're brilliant humans. Thank you both so much.

(52:33 - 52:33) Melony Swasey: Thank you.

(52:36 - 53:15) Felicia Jadczak: We hope you enjoyed listening to this interview as much as we enjoyed the conversation. You were so right at the top of the episode, Rachel. We need to have another episode. It's one of those episodes. We have them more frequently than not, but we barely got through our question list. I should say we did not even get through the question list. We got through like half of it. We barely touched the surface of redlining. So there's a lot to get into with regards to real estate power wealth building all the great things. So we're definitely gonna have Derek and Melony back to chat further because we got to get to the rest of our questions. Stay tuned if you thought that was interesting. And again, just a quick plug for their podcast, The Black Lightning Forum, definitely check that out.

(53:16 - 53:49) Rachel Murray: Yeah, we'll definitely include that in the show notes. Definitely check that out. So thank you so much for listening. Please don't forget to rate, share, and subscribe. It makes a huge difference in the reach of this podcast and by extension, this work. And visit us on YouTube, Instagram, and LinkedIn to stay up to date on all things SGO. Of course, don't forget to visit us at and If you want to learn more, you can get on our mailing list and don't forget to grab that free code for one of our many courses at slash podcast. Thank you. Bye bye.