Cashauna Hill has served as Executive Director of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center since April 2015. At GNOFHAC, Cashauna leads a team of 15 fair housing advocates and directs their work throughout Louisiana to eradicate housing discrimination and its harmful effects.
BD: What do you love about the work you do at the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center and can you share some the successes?
CH: I love that the work allows me to use my education and my personal experiences to attack systemic inequities present in today’s society. Even though I’m a lawyer, our work allows me to break down this country’s history of segregation in housing through many channels including legal representation of clients GNOFHAC’s work attacks the injustices through policy, advocacy and educational activities.
Our successes include victories in our legal advocacy. Whether that victory means winning a lawsuit for someone who is experiencing sexual harassment, or whether it is getting an accommodation for a client who has a disability, we’re able to assist clients every day whose civil rights have been violated. Victories in the policy realm are ongoing. In 2015, GNO making it illegal to evict domestic violence survivors because of an assault against them. That was the first time that any statewide housing protections for domestic violence survivors became part of Louisiana law. We spent the past 3 years working with grassroots and community-based organizations in New Orleans to advocate for changes to the Housing Authority’s criminal background screening policy. The previously policy banned persons with criminal backgrounds, meaning that any arrest or conviction for a felony or misdemeanor would keep someone out of public housing, or cause them to be refused a Section 8 housing voucher. The new policy that the coalition advocated for will not consider arrests at all, and will provide for more access to a second chance for people who have been involved with the criminal justice system.
BD: When and how did you become passionate about social justice activism, the law, and community organizing?
CH: I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t passionate about those things. My parents nurtured a spirit of activism, and social justice permeated the values I learned from them and in church. There was not a time when I wasn’t aware that I needed to work for justice. There wasn’t a time when I didn’t want to do that.
BD: What does being a Black woman in leadership mean to you?
CH: It means the world to me. It means that I have a duty to represent my community, and remain cognizant of the work I do, and who I do it for. Being a black woman in leadership means that I bring a different and necessary perspective that into fair housing advocacy. Being a young black woman in leadership is important, necessary and vital for the work that still needs to be done.
BD: Why was it important for you to be a member of the Women Engaged Advisory Board?
CH: It’s important because women of color and sharing their truths and empowering themselves is essential and it is critical for achieving social justice goals. The perspective of women of color – who are such integral parts of their communities, and are experts in dealing with the intersectional nature of oppression – has to be centered.
BD: Finally, what key life lessons can you share with us that sustain you while working for justice and equality?
CH: What sustains me is always remembering the people and communities I serve as the purpose behind my work. I see activism and advocacy as such important roles, and it is a blessing to serve and engage in this work.