Written by Jen Sotolongo for Positive News
Growing up in the Bronx, N.Y., Majora Carter was all too aware of the high rate of asthma and diabetes that riddled her community, due to poor air quality and pollution. She knew her ticket out was through education. When she returned home, in order to save money while pursuing her MFA, she became inspired to revitalize the neighborhood she had so desperately wanted to vacate.
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Her first success came after learning of the proposed waste facility designated for her neighborhood that would process 40 percent of New York City’s municipal garbage. She knew she had to put a stop to the plans. She researched the environmental and health impacts of such a facility and, through her persistence, squelched further plans for the plant. This effort sparked Majora’s drive to ‘green the ghetto’ and create better lives for people living in impoverished neighborhoods.
“No community should be saddled with more environmental burdens and less environmental benefits than any other,” she says. In 2001, Majora founded Sustainable South Bronx (SSBx) a non-profit environmental justice organization that holds the adage that people shouldn’t have to leave their neighborhoods to live in a better one.
In 2003, SSBx started the nation’s first and most successful urban green-collar job training and placement program that trains individuals in skills such as urban forestry, brown-field clean up and green roof installation and maintenance.
She is also responsible for the creation of the South Bronx’s first new waterfront park in over 60 years. This, thanks to her dog, Xena, who led her to an unused stretch of waterfront unbeknown to Majora.
“Early one morning I was out running with my dog, who started dragging me through an abandoned lot filled with tires, garbage, and weeds,” she says. “I turned a bend, and there was the Bronx River.”
Majora wrote a $1.25 million Federal Transportation planning grant for the South Bronx Greenway, an 11-mile stretch of the waterfront, similar to Boston’s Emerald Necklace, dedicated to recreational space and green streets.
Today, the Majora Carter Group allows the Bronx activist to expand her efforts to impoverished cities throughout the country including New Orleans, Detroit and small coastal towns in North Carolina.