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APM Spotlights Black History Month

At APM, we feel that the best way we can honor the heritage of our APM family members during Black History Month, is by listening and learning from the stories they share. 

Celebrating black history month

Meet Aneka Jennings, Licensed Loan Officer Assistant at My Miracle Mortgage, NMLS# 1711709

For Aneka Jennings, celebrating Black history and culture isn’t limited to one day or month. It’s an everyday occurrence she experiences through her love of gospel. Growing up in Mississippi as a Southern Baptist, Aneka turns to the gospel and its music anytime she is in need of inspiration or uplifting.

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Though she’s traded in Mississippi for Shoreline, Washington, where she serves as a loan officer assistant and processor at My Miracle Mortgage (a DBA arm of APM), Aneka still leans on her faith and church when she needs it. She’s proud that her church throws a large Juneteenth celebration, which not only welcomes and feeds the community, but also educates them about the holiday and Black culture.

This sense of community is important to Aneka, who sees family as one of her biggest assets. Though she had lots of family around, she believes the larger community played a big role in raising her. The same held true when she had children. Aneka knows a lot of this is due to the strong, powerful women within the Black community—people like her great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother, who were able to afford their own homes because they cleaned other people’s.

Aneka’s mom also helped her see the value of community. She always had an ear open when others talked, and she would provide items or services anonymously whenever she was made aware that someone was in need. Aneka’s father figures were equally community-oriented. Her dad and stepfather are both pastors, while her grandfather was a reverend.

Speaking of her grandfather, he was the first African American to work as a drafter for Ingalls Shipbuilding. His sketches were used to build ships for the Navy. Aneka’s father was also one of the first students to attend a desegregated school.

Aneka strives to continue the community-oriented, barrier-breaking legacy her family has cultivated by advocating for equality in the mortgage industry. This includes fighting for all prospective borrowers equally, and ensuring that all races have easy access to information and mortgage service providers, regardless of how long it may take them to qualify for a loan.

Meet Shawn Wilson, Sales Leader at Dream Team Mortgage, NMLS# 175597

Shawn Wilson is all about seeing the inherent potential in someone and finding a way to support it. This is the stance he’s taken with his five children, and it’s the strategy he employs as a loan officer outside of Baltimore. For Shawn, it’s all about creativity and finding out what lights a person up inside.

image001He partially attributes this passion to his African American heritage. Shawn is proud that his culture is steeped in so many artistic endeavors, including creative dance, art, and historic societal contributions that represent the different aspects of humanity. He also derives his passion from his mom, who raised him as a single parent. Shawn’s mother’s love of singing and piano was evident. She passed this love to her son, who soon began drawing portraits and playing percussion instruments.

Aside from his clients, his wife of 25 years, and his children—all of whom were homeschooled and still pursue their individual artistic talents—Shawn also acted as a light for Baltimore’s foster youth for eight years. During that time, he tried to show these children a different way of life, introduce them to the benefits of prayer and faith, and help them find the talents and goals that would make them shine.

There’s one acronym from that foster care agency that he still uses with his clients today: DREAM, or “Destiny realized equals achievements maximized.” Shawn begins every meeting with a potential borrower by asking what they hope to achieve by buying a home. Sometimes, that may mean stepping back from the application process to build credit or save for a larger down payment. In fact, Shawn will not even accept a loan application on the first visit. He says it makes buying a home too transactional, taking the people and their goals out of the process. How are loan officers supposed to know the right program for the borrower, he asks, if they don’t know what they’re hoping to achieve?

It’s a lesson we can all take as Shawn continues to bestow his light on his children, his city, and APM.

Meet Lisa J. Foster, Originating Branch Manager for the APM Division, NMLS# 461656

Lisa J. Foster is a strong proponent for knowledge and recognized as a revered voice in Black leadership. As immediate past president of Black Realtist® of Southern Nevada, the state chapter of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), she knows the African American community must put forth the effort to discover retellings of those who have exceeded and excelled. History was never written and taught with a truly accurate portrayal of African American culture, to say the least. Lisa is aware that this is a problem that persists even today.

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Though she was born and raised in Chicago, her great grandmother owned land in Alabama at a time when Black Americans weren’t allowed to own land. Her father’s history also includes relatives who had to escape the slave trade through the Underground Railroad, eventually winding up in Canada. In fact, Lisa’s great grandparents were the first Black settlers of Niagara Falls, where a monument still commemorates them to this day.

Raised in a loving household, Lisa’s parents served as her inspiration. They always told her she could do anything she wanted to do. Her mother was the first Black epidemiologist to be recognized on a national scale for a leadership role at a major hospital. Watching her mom working long hours and devoting herself to changing communities and lives empowered Lisa to do the same. She grew up appreciating and acknowledging Black excellence, and she believes that Black people must rise and remain resilient.

Lisa notes that, like many cultures, African Americans are big on family and family reunions, though hers may look a little different than most. Lisa and her family make it a point to attend reunions held by the slave owner families that intermingled with her own line. For Lisa, they’re still blood, so they’re still family. They treat one another as family with love, kindness, and that special closeness that family has.

In her practice as a branch manager in Las Vegas, Lisa is especially intentional about the messaging framed toward the Black community. She believes phrases like “homeownership education” and “credit repair” are problematic and insulting. They can convey an unintentional message that tells the listener, “You are uneducated, unskilled, and not ready.” Instead, she suggests phrases like “homeownership journey” or “credit optimization.” That simple rewording, Lisa says, can make all the difference. She knows that members of her community don’t need a hero to save them, as some of these messages might imply. Instead, they simply want the same opportunities afforded to everyone. And that starts with addressing them with dignity and respect.

Meet Tiffane Vaughn, HR Analyst at APM Home Office

Tiffane Vaughn doesn’t need a reason to celebrate her culture and roots, but when one presents itself, she’s there to enjoy it with friends, family, and food. Growing up in Antioch, California, Tiffane was grateful to have most of her family nearby in Sacramento and the Bay Area. This included her grandmother, whom Tiffane lived with on and off. Her grandmother provided a great deal of inspiration as the family’s independent powerhouse, achieving everything she wanted on her own. This served as a source of guidance for Tiffane’s own work ethic and success.

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Though her family lives all over the U.S., Tiffane is proud that 80-plus members gather together every Memorial Day weekend for a picnic. This allows for catching up and celebrating, in addition to meeting new family members. Tiffane also loves to celebrate Juneteenth. She appreciates that it’s become a more nationally recognized holiday in the past few years. 

This sentiment shift aligns with Tiffane’s personal views, which include remaining curious, asking questions, and not jumping to conclusions. She believes everyone should commit to becoming informed and ridding themselves of any ignorance they may be holding onto.

Tiffane admits that embracing her culture and skin color didn’t always come easily to her, especially in her younger school days. However, with a mindset shift—and some great role models like her grandmother—Tiffane has become the biggest proponent of “Black girl magic” because she knows there’s nothing women like her can’t do.

Meet Amanda Neal, Licensed Loan Processor at Golden Eagle Mortgage, NMLS# 1577053

Growing up biracial, Amanda Neal felt blessed to enjoy the best aspects of two cultures. Music, for example, was always present in her Bay Area childhood home. Amanda’s dad, who is Black, introduced her to jazz, hip hop, and R&B, while her mother, who is white, opened her ears to country, rock, and soft rock. You were just as likely to hear Tupac as you were Guns N’ Roses.

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Even today, music is at the center of the family’s get-togethers, which they call “functions.” This is where Amanda, her parents, and her four younger siblings—in addition to extended family—gather to eat, drink, laugh, and push one another to be the best they can be. What they were never pushed to do, Amanda notes, was “pick a side.” Instead, her parents embraced both their cultures and encouraged their children to be true to themselves.

Still, the family never shied away from racial issues, including what it’s like to be a Black person in today’s world. Amanda’s upbringing allows her to approach her clients at Golden Eagle Mortgage, a subsidiary of APM, in the same manner. It’s been ingrained in her to treat everyone equally. For Amanda, that means looking every client in the eye and making sure they feel comfortable, heard, and seen.

Though her dad has a master’s degree and is a practicing CPA, education wasn’t at the forefront of his childhood. Amanda knows this can be a pervasive issue within the Black community, which is why she focuses on education and outreach within her region. She strives to reach potential first-generation homeowners and to overcome the barriers that prevent them from building wealth. Amanda continues to attend trainings and classes that allow her to best serve her clients, whatever walks of life they come from.

Meet Ron Bennett, Loan Officer for APM—Seattle, Washington, NMLS# 57792

Celebrations are big in Ron Bennett’s family. Though Kwanzaa and Juneteenth are toward the top of his list, Ron’s favorite celebration is his mom’s birthday. She’s the person he’s looked up to most, as she always made sure he had everything he needed. Her help led to a basketball scholarship at Seattle University, which allowed Ron to become the first in his family to receive a college degree.

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His success inspired his mom to go back to school, obtaining a few degrees herself. This then led Ron to pursue his MBA. News like this is precisely what Ron shares every year when he and his family descend upon Sandusky, Ohio, his mom’s hometown, for their annual family reunion. Naturally, food is front and center—and there’s no lack of talent there. Ron’s dad was a cook in the Navy, though his brother was always the cook of the family. Once he passed, Ron’s nephew—his late brother’s son—took over that role.

Ron’s role as an APM Loan Advisor in Maple Valley, Washington, allowed him to get his two brothers in a home—a home they were able to keep even after one of the brothers passed. That home is now part of his brother’s legacy, something Ron wants for all African Americans. That’s why Ron makes a conscious effort to partner with realtors who work in underserved Black communities. He wants to target the neighborhoods where there are problems, because those problems can lead to opportunity when residents understand and clearly see the path to homeownership. Ron is so passionate about this issue that he spends his spare time educating realtors on how they can better serve these communities.

On the APM side, Ron appreciates how the company views diversity and looks for ways to bring homeownership to the Black community.

If you’d like to learn more about APM’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, go here to read about our mission and strategy.

 

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