Majora Carter (born October 27, 1966) is an economic consultant, public radio host, and environmental justice advocate from the South Bronx area of New York City. Carter founded the non-profit environmental justice solutions corporation Sustainable South Bronx before entering the private sector.
Carter attended primary schools in the South Bronx. After graduating from the Bronx High School of Science, she entered Wesleyan University in 1984 to study acting and film and obtain a Bachelor of Arts. In 1997, she received a Master of Fine Arts from New York University (NYU). While at NYU, she returned to her family’s home in Hunts Point, and later worked for The Point Community Development Corporation. As associate director of the community development corporation, Carter advocated for the development of Hunts Point Riverside Park. Carter was “pulled by her dog into a weedy vacant lot strewn with trash at the dead end of Lafayette Avenue. As the pair plowed through the site they ended up, much to Carter’s surprise, on the banks of the Bronx River.”
From there, Carter helped secure a $10,000 grant from a USDA Forest Service program to provide seed money for river access restoration projects. Working with other community groups and the Parks Department, over a five-year period she helped leverage that seed money into more than $3 million from the mayor’s budget to build the park.
In August 2001, after an unsuccessful campaign for City Council, Carter founded Sustainable South Bronx (SSBx), where she served as executive director until July 2008. During that time, SSBx advocated the development of the Hunt’s Point Riverside Park which had been an illegal garbage dump. SSBx has also been involved in other restoration projects on the Bronx River waterfront. In 2003, Sustainable South Bronx started the Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training program. This was one of the nation’s first urban green collar training and placement systems. Other SSBx projects have centered around fitness, food choices (including the creation of a community market), and air quality.
A December 2008 New York Times profile called Carter “The Green Power Broker” and “one of the city’s best-known advocates for environmental justice” but reported that some South Bronx activists (who would not go on record) stated that Carter has taken credit for accomplishments when others should share the credit as well as taking credit for uncompleted projects. Other Bronx activists (who did agree to be named) stated that her recognition was well deserved.
Carter was a torch-bearer for a portion of the San Francisco leg of the torch relay of the 2008 Summer Olympics. Many portions of the torch relay, including the San Francisco leg, were met with protests concerning the policies of the Chinese government toward Tibet. Although Carter had signed a contract pledging not to use an Olympic venue for political or religious causes, when she and John Caldera were passed the torch during their part of the relay, she pulled out a small Tibetan flag that she had concealed in her shirt sleeve.
Members of the Chinese torch security escort team pulled her out of the relay and San Francisco police officers pushed her into the crowd on the side of the street. Fellow torch-bearer, retired NYFD firefighter Richard Doran, who was honoring the firefighters who died in the September 11 attacks, called Carter’s actions “disgusting and appalling” and said that he thought “she dishonored herself and her family”. Another torch-bearer, retired NYPD police officer Jim Dolan, agreed with Doran.
Majora Carter’s TED talk was one of the first 6 publicly released talks to launch the TED.com website in 2006. Carter has made appearances in, and/or written, and produced television and radio programs, including HBO‘s The Black List volume 2, American Public Media‘s Market Place, and PRX‘s This I Believe series and has hosted several pieces on urban sustainability with Discovery Communications‘ Science Channel. From 2007 – 2010, Carter has appeared on The Green, a television segment dedicated to the environment, shown on the Sundance Channel. The first season consisted of a series of 90 second op-eds shot in studio. The second season consisted of a series of short interview pieces with people who are taking uncommon approaches to environmental problems.
In 2008, Carter and Marge Ostroushko co-produced the pilot episode of the public radio show, The Promised Land (radio), which won a 3-way competition for a Corporation for Public Broadcasting Talent Quest grant. The one-hour programs debuted on over 150 public radio stations across the US on January 19, 2009, have been renewed for the 2010/2011 season, and has since earned a 2010 Peabody Award
Carter has co-authored a white paper on Urban Heat Island Mitigation and a peer-reviewed article, Elemental carbon and PM(2.5) levels in an urban community heavily impacted by truck traffic.
Since leaving Sustainable South Bronx, Carter has been president of a private, for-profit “green” economic consulting firm, The Majora Carter Group, LLC. The New York Times reported that her consulting firm charges $25,000 for some of her speaking appearances. In the June 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine, Majora Carter was listed as one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business