Friday, February 4, 2022

Q&A with Majora Carter




Majora Carter is the author of the new book Reclaiming Your Community: You Don't Have to Move Out of Your Neighborhood To Live in a Better One. She is a real estate developer, urban revitalization strategy consultant, Macarthur Fellow, and broadcaster.


Q: What inspired you to write Reclaiming Your Community, and what do you see as the most important factor in reclaiming a community?


A: The patterns of real estate development in urban America over the past 25 years are fairly obvious at this point. American Re-Urbanization is happening, not everyone is happy about it, so what can we do differently? 


Talent retention is a common practice for corporations that want to grow, but the net effect of government, philanthropy, and many activists in low-status communities is talent-repulsion. Successful people from within our communities need to be incentivized to stay, and it's not as complicated as one might think.


Q: One of the themes that comes up in the book is the idea of the nonprofit industrial complex. How would you define that concept, and what role does it play in your book?


A: It's like if you're a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Well-meaning people see a lot of poverty, poor health/education outcomes, etc., and they want to directly address the most acute problems, and I applaud them for that. 


However, there are indirect or unintended consequences of some of these efforts that don't really solve anything and often entrench the problems.


Q: As a real estate developer and urban revitalization strategy consultant, how have your own experiences contributed to the writing of the book, and what impact did writing it have on you? 


A: Well, my own experiences (Black women in the race- and gender-driven hierarchy of the USA), so there's that...  Rather than dive into theories about all that, I chose to hit it all head on through real world projects large and small, and I have paid a financial and emotional price. 


I hope people who read the book will see themselves in these stories, as people who have helped or hindered our progress - maybe without even knowing what they were participating in. 


Writing the book over the 2020 shutdowns (and whatever 2021 was) has been really good for me to help see it all in perspective. Some of it was painful along the way, but that's part of building anything great.  


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: That they can do everything I have done and much more, or maybe just support someone else to succeed - either way we win. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Preparing a Cass-Gilbert designed rail station I purchased from Amtrak for a crowd-fund equity offer on to redevelop it into a multi-purpose event hall.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: My cafe (, which shows up in the book, won an Al Fresco NYC Award this past summer and was named Best Cafe in NYC 2021 by TimeOut NY!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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