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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: Home ownership starts young

Now Kalamazoo
Twala Lockett-Jones
Twala Lockett-Jones

Twala Lockett-Jones bought her first house when she was 19. And she kept buying houses and now has more than 40 of them. Some she lives in, some are “flipped,” and some are made accessible as affordable housing in her childhood community on Kalamazoo’s Northside. Lockett-Jones owns her own real estate agency. But there was another kind of outreach she wanted to accomplish: writing a book for kids, with a focus on the African American community, to encourage home ownership as a way to build personal wealth. Her new book is called Princess Mackie Buys a House.

A conversation with Twala Lockett-Jones

“As a real estate broker and a realtor, I see a lot that happens in the real estate industry,” Lockett-Jones says. “One of the things I noticed early on was the disparity in home ownership between African Americans and other cultures, especially white.”

The book, Lockett-Jones says, is written for children at the 3rd to 5th grade reading level.

Melissa Bailey
Twala Lockett-Jones
Cover of "Princess Mackie Buys a House"

“But it can be enjoyed by people of all ages. I’m getting a lot of reviews by adults who are reading the book, and they are commenting on how it’s helping them learn the steps to home ownership. The book was written because I wanted to plant seeds early in our children about not only the pathway to home ownership but also the importance of owning our own homes.”

Step by step, the storyline leads little Mackenzie and her single mom to achieving their dream, or Princess Mackie’s dream, of living in what she perceives as a castle. A house across the street from their rented apartment catches their eye: a Victorian home that has aspects of a fantasy castle, complete with princess décor in one of the bedrooms. The two learn how to achieve their dream by saving money for a down payment, getting pre-approved for a mortgage, choosing the right real estate agent, touring homes, making the offer, getting through the home inspection and appraisal, and finally, the big day—closing and moving in.

While most people in the white community buy their first home in their 20’s and 30’s, in the African American community, a first home purchase tends to happen in their late 40’s—if it all. That is something that Lockett-Jones would like to change.

Many African Americans have been held back by red-lining, predatory policies, and discriminatory practices, she says. She encourages people to dream big and work toward that dream of becoming homeowners without being hindered by current ups and downs in the housing market.

“Home ownership is the cornerstone of building wealth in America,” Lockett-Jones says. “Almost any wealthy person has real estate as a large portion of their net worth. It’s that important.”

Princess Mackie Buys a House was illustrated by Michigan artist and author Melissa Bailey and formatted by Sean Hollins of Kalamazoo. The book was funded, in part, by a grant from the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo.

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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