September 26, 2022– Last week we were thrilled to host acclaimed Social-Entrepreneur, Peabody Award-winning broadcaster, and MacArthur Genius, Majora Carter, as part of our Friday Night Speaker Series.
Carter’s writings have long been part of our Environmental Issues curriculum, and her talk focused on her new book: Reclaiming Your Community, published earlier this year. We connected with Carter via her husband and communications manager, James Chase, a Chewonki alumnus.
About sixty students, faculty, and staff gathered in Chapin Hall for Carter’s talk. She spoke about her childhood in the South Bronx and her eye-opening return to the neighborhood as a young adult (Carter moved back in with her parents to pay for graduate school) in the early ’00s. Noting the distinct lack of investment in her surrounding landscape, Carter began advocating for the redevelopment of public and private spaces that might increase the quality of life for her neighbors and encourage youth to return. One of the first big projects she tackled was cleaning up an abandoned waterfront site into an inviting community park.
Carter soon became well-known for her ideas on urban revitalization and economic development – particularly in “low-status” neighborhoods impacted by histories of redlining and other racist policies. Her approach tackles the cycle of underinvestment from three different angles. First, she helps individual homeowners understand the value of their properties so they aren’t tempted to take low cash offers from predatory lenders. Second, she advocates for cities to change how they see low-status neighborhoods and invest more in the health and livability of these places. And third, as a private real estate developer, Carter leads by example. She’s completed numerous projects that have helped transform low-status neighborhoods into thriving mixed-use local economies.
Carter founded the Majora Carter Group in 2008. A recent notable project is called Boogie Down Grind, a Hip Hop themed specialty coffee & craft beer spot and the first commercial “3rd Space” in the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx since the mid-1980s. Two of her current projects are redeveloping a historic train station into a venue and public space called Bronxlandia, and a mixed-use development in Indianapolis called Flanner House.
After speaking for an hour, Carter answered numerous questions from students, faculty, and staff. Attendees asked about how schools fit into her thinking, about praise and criticism she’s received, how she navigates the world of real estate investment and more.
Thanks for your incredible work, Majora, and for visiting us on Monday! We encourage everyone to grab a copy of her new book via your local bookstore or library.