About a year and a half ago my husband returned from a conference deeply inspired. It was the annual TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference, with a roster of brilliant world-changing speakers. That year Al Gore was there, and being an admirer, I was particularly eager to hear about his presentation. But the person Charlie was most eager to talk about wasn’t the former vice-president. The really eye-opening and memorable presentation, the one he kept coming back to, was given by a remarkable young woman from the South Bronx. He went on and on about the extraordinary work she was doing reclaiming her neighborhood—building new parks and bike paths, setting up training programs for a green workforce, and all kinds of other initiatives. She certainly sounded impressive, but it wasn’t until we received a DVD of the conference in the mail and I sat down to watch it that I really grasped the full magnificence of Majora Carter.
She was smart, beautiful, down to earth, committed, and passionate about her cause, with a spirit of determination that was infectious. Here was a woman raised in a marginalized part of New York City, an area that for decades has been a dumping ground, a poor ghetto over which the rising affluent city has built its highways, hidden its waste facilities, its power plants, its eyesores, and rubble of all kinds. Hers has been a neighborhood demoralized, riddled with crime, addiction, ill health—much the byproduct of ongoing assault and neglect. But somehow Majora, supported by a loving family and inspired by a few good mentors, decided there was something she could do about this environmental and social injustice. She took the initiative, came up with a plan for how to recover some of the devastated waterfront, got a grant, created Sustainable South Bronx, and embarked on a project that has grown and grown.
Through her work Majora has demonstrated a new model for sustainable development, one that brings community, government, and enterprise into a powerful partnership that has a potential to effect real systemic change. Her work continues to evolve in very exciting ways, but I’ll let her tell you about it herself.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Majora Carter.