Greening the Ghetto
Poitras-Gleim speaker Majora Carter advocates urban renewal
by Michelle Simmons
February 21, 2012
Majora Carter, a recipient of the MacArthur “genius” grant, discussed sustainable urban development during her PAS keynote lecture.
Dickinson’s annual Public Affairs Symposium (PAS) featured not one, but two, MacArthur Award recipients this year. PAS is a series of issue-driven events that connect the college’s liberal-arts curriculum with issues affecting the nation and world. This year’s theme was The City.
Not long before performing “The Moth Radio Hour” at The Depot on Sunday, Feb. 19, members of the New York City-based nonprofit organization The Moth learned that it had received a 2012 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. Acclaimed for its dedication to the art and craft of storytelling, The Moth has featured stories by Malcolm Gladwell, Ethan Hawke, Annie Proulx and Salman Rushdie, as well as an astronaut, a pickpocket and a hot-dog-eating champion.
On Monday, Feb. 20, Poitras-Gleim speaker Majora Carter, an environmental-justice advocate and host of the Peabody Award-winning public radio series, The Promised Land, shared her experience revitalizing the South Bronx. “My story shows that there’s promise in everything we do,” she told the packed audience in the Stern Center.
Carter began by describing the loss of the borough’s manufacturing base and middle-class families, which resulted in the crime and urban decay she experienced growing up. Noting that the most impoverished neighborhoods also bear the brunt of environmental and public-health degradation, Carter set out to improve her community’s economic and environmental well-being.
In 1999, she led revitalization efforts that included developing a greenway throughout the community and the first waterfront park in New York City in 60 years. She later founded the nonprofit organization Sustainable South Bronx, which launched Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training, a program that provides green-jobs training and placement for community members.
Carter received the MacArthur Fellows Program award in 2005 for her work in transforming urban landscapes into livable, economically viable communities. She now works with cities across the country on sustainable real-estate development through her consulting firm, The Majora Carter Group. “I’ve seen badly done development in New York City,” she said. “I know we can do better.”
The Poitras-Gleim lecture was endowed by a gift from Ted and Kay Gleim Poitras ’53 and provides a forum to explore and promote cross-disciplinary thought and communication. Previous speakers include Ralph Nader, Danny Glover, Jack Palance and Valerie Plame.