Majora Carter: Fight for Environmental and Economic Change

March 15, 2013
By: Joe Gullekson

“The thing that got me going was that we didn’t always have to be fighting against something, but that we could be fighting for something,” said Majora Carter, this year’s speaker in Worcester State University’s Courageous Conversations series.

Carter has won the Peabody Award and Macarthur Fellowship for her work in bringing social, environmental, and economic equality to the South Bronx neighborhood in New York City.

Carter’s childhood memories of hearing news reports describe her neighborhood using the same terms that they used to describe war propelled her to become active in her community after graduating from New York University in 1997.

In 2001, Carter founded the nonprofit organization Sustainable South Bronx. The organization’s South Bronx Greenway project has been responsible for cleaning up the Bronx River and for bringing environmental vitality to the community.

The organization also runs the Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training, a project that gets community members involved in the change.

“We wanted people in the community to see themselves as creators and inventors in their own rights,” Carter told the estimated 300 people who turned out for the presentation in the auditorium of Worcester State University’s May Street annex.

In 2008, Carter shifted her attention to real estate development in an attempt to achieve what she calls “hometown security.”

Her goal is to counter the trend of extracting the best and the brightest from low-income communities by bringing opportunities to these communities instead.

“If you aren’t able to see it, then you have no idea that there is something out there that you could be,” Carter said.

Carter hopes that in-community opportunities will represent an alternative to current economic development where poor people are either displaced or poverty levels are maintained.

One of Carter’s biggest hurdles in achieving her goals has been the resistance she has encountered from wary and isolated low-income residents.

“It’s all about building relationships and speaking in languages that people can understand,” she said.

WSU Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Charles Cullum introduced Carter. “Throughout her career, Majora Carter has earned the respect that we afford to her today,” he said.

The Courageous Conversations series is sponsored by the Third World Alliance, History Department, Center for the Study of Human Rights, Multicultural Affairs Office, and the Next Step Program.

Joe Gullekson ’13 is an English major at WSU. 

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