Real estate developer Majora Carter — a Princeton University professor and MacArthur “Genius” Award winner — grew up walking past a crack house on a corner of her South Bronx neighborhood. It was a feature — almost an expectation — of her low opportunity community, one from which young people like her worked hard to leave.
But Carter stayed. That crack house is now her award-winning hip hop cafe, the Boogie Down Grind, two blocks away from where she grew up and around the corner from where she lives now.
She considers the South Bronx her lab, the place she invests in to make the point that communities like hers can be areas of growth, excellence and wealth building — for the residents who already live there. Her proposition, as laid out in a TED Talk last year:
What if we looked at low-status communities as though they were struggling companies? How would we turn them around? How would a talent retention model work on a neighborhood scale?
So municipalities, they hand out corporate retention deals because they believe that the economic activity that it will produce is actually worth the subsidy that they pay out. And so we’ll need to do the same thing in low-status communities for the people that were led to believe that they need to measure success by how far they get away from those places. You know, we can’t really force anybody to stay, but we can nudge them with lifestyle infrastructure, the type of stuff that we learned through our own market research that people told us that they wanted. Places like cafes and bars and bookstores and farmers markets and, you know, the places that, frankly, you probably all like to go to, too. They build positive community interactions and make people feel really cool.
So another nudge would be real access to property ownership and business ownership that keeps people vested in their neighborhoods. These are like benefits, you know, and company stock options, so when the community does well, so do the residents. It’s kind of like the employees of a hot start-up. So how do we make sure that these benefits and stock options get in the right hands and appreciate and add value for them?
Carter will talk about her community development work — also laid out in her 2022 book, Reclaiming Your Community: You Don’t Have to Move out of Your Neighborhood to Live in a Better One — at this year’s Ideas We Should Steal Festival presented by Comcast NBCUniversal on November 17.
Carter will be joined by Randal Wyatt, founder of Taking Ownership PDX, a Portland organization that helps Black residents stay in their homes.
Meet Majora Carter at
the 2023 Ideas We Should Steal Festival presented by Comcast NBCUniversal
Friday, November 17
Ralph J Roberts Forum at Comcast Technology Center,
1800 Arch Street, Philadelphia
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