The 90s was a time of firsts for HAR, including the first black elected to the HAR’s board of directors in 1994, Ed Ryland, followed by the first Hispanic elected to the board in 1995, Ed Gonzales, not to mention the launch of the association’s website,, in 1997.

Prior decades of nationwide minority activist pressure had resulted in congressional acts on regulations and law affecting housing, credit and mortgage lending, which included: the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974, the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act of 1975, and the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977.

This was just one facet of the 90s market environment when two REALTORS®, in the spirit of diversity, stepped up to seek a place at the table to represent their minority real estate colleagues on the HAR board of directors.

Ed Ryland was the president then of the Houston Black Real Estate Association, which began in 1949. Ed Gonzales was a board member of Real Estate Association Latinos, a local organization of Hispanic real estate professionals founded in 1986.

Imagine both groups, which started 30 years apart in response to discriminatory real estate practices, trying to get several hundred members together under one roof for a meeting to deal with the issues of the day.

Did. Not. Work. How about both boards of directors coming together? Again, it did not work. Finally just the leaders (the president, vice president and past presidents) of both groups met. That proved to be the effective fast response team that was needed then for housing issues.

When the leadership of Houston Independent Real Estate Brokers Association was invited to the leadership meetings, Ed Ryland suggested a name for this new group: Real Estate Diversity Alliance.

When the Asian American Real Estate Association was formed in Houston in 2003, (this group superseded another Asian group that had formed in 1995) their leadership inclusion prompted a rethink of the leadership group name which led to the official adoption of the name, The Crayons.

Inside and outside of real estate, the name The Crayons was intuitive, with a clear meaning, the inclusion of all colors and by extension, all cultures. Diversity defined most simply and with a smile.

As years passed the leadership of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals and the real estate division of the Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce joined The Crayons.

Here are a couple of things The Crayons have either influenced or accomplished:

  • A cost cutting move during the Clinton administration would send the Houston HUD office to Denver, creating a hardship in the timely processing of local FHA & HUD loans. FHA was a primary affordable housing program for first time home buyers, then, as it is now. Amid the outcry from the real estate community, Ed Ryland led The Crayons in explaining to Congressman Ken Bensten the negative impact on minorities seeking home ownership. Luck stayed with us when Congressman Bentsen had the opportunity in D.C. to mention this situation to President Bill Clinton. The result, HUD stayed in Houston.
  • In 1999, Rob Cook for the Houston Independent Real Estate Brokers Association, led The Crayons in a meeting with HAR executive leadership that resulted in a new broader inclusion process for Realtor members from the smaller real estate offices to be elected to the HAR board of Directors.

In the interest of reaching out to all REALTOR® members, Rob as HAR’s chairman-elect included The Crayons among various associations to attend HAR’s 2006 strategic conference in Galveston, a tradition continued in 2007 by then chair–elect Michael Levitin.

Few might remember that Suzanne Debien was the first Asian REALTOR® elected to the board in 1990. More than fifteen years passed without another Asian elected to the board (and still, to this day). Rob Cook, as the 2007 HAR board chair, appointed Kenneth Li to the HAR board to represent Asian REALTORS®. The following year, HAR board chair, Michael Levitin, appointed Danny Nguyen to that position.

At a meeting this past July at the invitation of 2013 HAR board Chairman, Danny Frank, elected leaders from The Crayons met with Dr. Oscar Gonzales, HAR Vice Chair One, Nancy Furst, and Lori Carper, Director of HAR’s International program. One result was an invitation to attend HAR’s annual strategic leadership conference in Galveston.

At a recent HAR area luncheon, I was asked by a REALTOR® why there was a need for a separate REALTOR® ethnicity or culture-based group.

The response that I should have given beyond “great networking events and business opportunities” was something I attribute to Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee. Paraphrased, The Crayons assume the voices of all the colors and cultures to advocate for those within the real estate industry, with the media and with the government; for those who lack a voice or an effective choice to influence the services they receive.Ed Gonzales, REALTOR® & Business Broker, Danny Nguyen Commercial
2013 HAR International Advisory Group member