From left to right: Rohit Chopra, Eleanor Blume, Paulina Gonzalez-Brito and Carol J. Ornelas.

The California Reinvestment Coalition’s 2023 Equitable Futures Awards two-event series started off with a bang Thursday, April 27 in Oakland. 

Nearly 150 CRC members, allies, banking industry representatives and elected officials gathered under an eastbay sunset and string lights to celebrate two incredible advocates and one outstanding people-first organization that have set the building blocks for a fair economy and created space for organizational growth and collaboration.

“The Equitable Futures Awards are unique in that it brings together the banking industry, financial and housing advocates and elected officials to recognize the critical work of community leaders,” said CRC CEO Paulina Gonzalez-Brito. “This event reminds me that if we work together, we can build a fair and inclusive economy that meets the needs of all, and not just some.”

This year, CRC honored CEO of Visionary Home Builders of California Carol J. Ornelas with the Alan Fisher Award; The Office of the California Attorney General, Rob Bonta and consumer watchdog champion and Director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau Rohit Chopra, with Equitable Futures Award for their collective and unique approaches to achieving economic justice for marginalized communities. 

“I know sometimes that we [advocates] are pessimistic. But there is no time for pessimism, there’s only time for moving forward, for pushing forward, and getting things done,” Chopra said. 

He continued, “If you’re ever dispirited, keep remembering about the walking distance, the driving distance and all that we have to do, not just in California, but across the country,” a reference to the impacts of historical redlining in Oakland and beyond. 

In the final speech of the evening, Alan FIsher Award recipient Ornelas addressed the crowd to reflect on her 40 years of experience in the housing industry.

“We [Visionary Home Builders] are celebrating 40 years, and the work is not done. We have to keep pushing forward. As a community, and as an organization, we want better for the people that live in our communities,” Ornelas said.

Members of CRC’s inaugural Resilience Fund Cohort were acknowledged ahead of the festivities for their camaraderie and successes during the first year of the program

The Northern California Equitable Futures Awards were sponsored by Bank of Montreal, City National Bank, US Bank, Cathay Bank, Mechanics Bank, Flagstar Bank, East West Bank, Clearinghouse CDFI, Momentus Capital, California Community Economic Development Association (CCEDA), California Bank & Trust, California Capital Financial Development Corporation, FHL Bank of San Francisco, Working Solutions, Pacific Premier, and The Law of Offices of Jonathan Weissglass

The Southern California Equitable Futures Awards will take place in the fall in Los Angeles.