The “Boogie Down Bronx” is known for being the birthplace of Hip-Hop. Real Estate Developer, Majora Carter, also proudly calls the South Bronx her home.
In fact, the borough was the main character in many of the stories Carter shared on the main stage at the Renaissance Theatre, on Jan. 30th.
Equipped with colorful slides, to boot, the Hunts Point Native, was the first speaker in a series of conversations that will be held at the venue in the upcoming months, until October.
The Kaleidoscope series, which is being sponsored by the Richland County Foundation, the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library, the Renaissance Performing Arts Association, and Richland Source, will host three additional speakers besides the charismatic Carter, who wasn’t shy.
For more than an hour, she shared riveting stories, that were often laced with humor and nostalgia, about some of the properties she has played a role in transforming.
Many were transformed during her stints at non-profits including The Point Community Development Corporation and Sustainable South Bronx, (which she founded). Carter currently works as a consultant and strategist in the private sector. She has joked that she is a recovering Executive Director and has been clean for two years and some months.
Carter, who has been very vocal and open about growing up as a poor child in the South Bronx, has advocated for neighborhoods that have experienced many of the environmental injustices or health issues she and her neighbors faced, as a result of growing up near sewage or waste-water plants.
She explained that as a student at New York University, who had to move back in with her parents, she felt a little defeated because she was expected to use her smarts and education to leave the Bronx and never return.
She’d also witnessed many other smart talented people leaving the community, even though they were expected to leave.
But it took that experience for her to begin to question why? She subsequently felt residents should not necessarily have to leave their neighborhoods to experience cafe’s or other nice things.
Making peace with her inner capitalist and not faulting the residents in her hometown for wanting to own or experience nice things, she began her quest to help revitalize her hometown one idea and space at a time.
Carter, who uses the term Low Status Communities, as opposed to using the term under-privileged communities, when speaking about her work, further explained how one can spot a low status community.
Many low status communities are often plagued by industrial or other pollutants as well as an overabundance of Dollar Stores, health clinics and pharmacies. Plus, low-income housing that is concentrated, on purpose. There too are payday loans, check cashing places (where it costs people to use their money) and pawn shops.
In contrast, Carter highlighted her mixed -purpose venue, where she pulled on the skills of some of the talented artists in the neighborhood to cover up the graffiti that had defaced the property, when she first acquired it, and is slated to go through another reiteration.
The building has hosted events ranging from weddings, gaming tournaments, and Quinceaneras to open mic nights. Even a wrestling event.
She has also been instrumental in writing a grant to help transform an illegal garbage dump, which she had stumbled upon one day while walking her dog, into a beautiful park and waterfront Oasis in the Hunts Point area. In addition to the Coffee shop, Boogie Down Grinds, which she shouted out during her presentation,
Added to her impressive list of accomplishments is the grant that initially wrote was seeded over the equivalent of 300 times, over a 5 year period and $3 million dollars in the budget from the Mayor’s Office, the Hunts Point Riverside Park was born.
Similar to her TedX Talk “Greening The Ghetto” in 2007, Carter shared stories about her late father, who was a Pullman porter. Her father, who was the son of a slave, purchased the home she grew up in and presently lives in, with $15,000 he won at the race track, she explained.
She added, her father wasn’t perfect, he liked to gamble, but he had a kind heart and would often take others in. The home that he bought in the 40’s was once a walk to work, working class community that had experienced substantial decline.
In one of her collections of TedX Talks (links below), which are still available on YouTube, Carter has noted that when the community does well, so do the residents, adding that she is the manifestation of her mommy and daddy dreams.
Before ending her presentation at the Renaissance, Carter pointed out that she had gotten a chance to tour parts of Richland county with JayAllred, CEO of Source Media Properties. After her presentation, Carter sat down with Allred and entertained questions from the audience.
The questions ranged from her thoughts about some of the areas in Mansfield that she thought needed to be revitalized or had potential? In addition to the dwindling police presence in some cities, how do the people in the room stay in contact with each other? A question that was more geared at the audience, and more towards the panel, in general.
Three additional key takeaways from Carter’s Address and her philosophies about revitalization our communities, in general are:
Every zip code has a South Bronx, what are we going to do about it? What’s going to be the long-term solutions? Economically? Politically? I am asking you?
Using the tools of capitalism in a restorative way. How can we help or show people in low status communities that they don’t have to move out of their communities to live in better ones?
You don’t have to leave your neighborhood to live in a better one.
Those of us who can relate to Carter’s address, agree that
losing a wealth of talent or swatches of young people, who can contribute to our communities, is a loss or a missed opportunity to maximize resources that already exist in the community.
Lastly, if you have lived in Richland County long enough, at some point, you have heard someone express that he or she feels like “There’s nowhere to go.” Or “there are no jobs here,” or “ there’s nothing to do here.”
You have probably heard someone say or even said yourself, “as soon as I finish college, I am outta here, I am moving to Columbus or Timbuktu.”
Some of her principles and approaches to revitalizing some of the neighborhoods in bigger cities in regards to communities in Richland County (which might be considered low-status) are definitely worth pondering.
According to Carter, “We are all responsible for the future we create.” And,“We all want our neighborhood to be better and we want to be included.”