Majora Carter’s career as urban revitalization strategist has spanned environment, economy, social mobility, and real estate development. Her work has won major awards in each sector, including a MacArthur ‘genius’ Grant and Peabody Award winning broadcaster.
Majora’s words — “Nobody should have to move out of their neighborhood to live in a better one” — are inscribed on the walls of the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. And her new book, called “Reclaiming Your Neighborhood”, the subject of our podcast, takes a next step in her thesis – build where you live, talent will stay and your neighborhood will prosper.
Born and raised in the South Bronx, Majora has long-focused much of her work there, looking always to make positive change for her community, and in doing so, gained both national and international attention. She believes that talent retention may be the key to turning around low-status neighborhoods. And she’s backed that up with her Boogie Down Ground Hip-Hop coffee spot which she owns and operates with her husband in Hunts Point, around the corner from where she grew up.
Majora is also a lecturer at Princeton University’s Keller Center, serves as editor and senior producer at GROUNDTRUTH, a platform for telling stories of people building community power, and she previously served as associate director of The POINT Community Development Corporation. She founded and ran Sustainable South Bronx and co-founded Green for All.
Read the podcast transcript here
Eve Picker: [00:00:07] Hi there. Thanks for joining me on Rethink Real Estate. For Good. I’m Eve Picker and I’m on a mission to make real estate work for everyone. I love real estate. Real estate makes places good or bad, rich or poor, beautiful or not. In this show, I’m interviewing the disruptors, those creative thinkers and doers that are shrugging off the status quo, in order to build better for everyone. If you haven’t already, check out all of my podcasts at our website RethinkRealEstateForGood.co, or you can find them at your favorite podcast station. You’ll find lots worth listening to, I’m sure.
Eve: [00:01:01] My guest today is Majora Carter, my second interview with this powerhouse. Her career as urban revitalization strategist has spanned environment, economy, social mobility and real estate development, and her work has won major awards in each sector, including a MacArthur Genius grant. Majora’s words are inscribed on the walls of the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture: “Nobody should have to move out of their neighborhood to live in a better one.” Her new book called “Reclaiming Your Neighborhood”, the subject of our podcast, takes a next step in her thesis. Build where you live, talent will stay, and your neighborhood will prosper. Look for the book on Amazon, in bookstores or on Majora’s website. There is no way around it. If you are really interested in impact investing, this podcast is a must listen.
Eve: [00:02:19] Hello, Majora. I’m so delighted to have you back on this show.
Majora Carter: [00:02:23] Thanks for having me.
Eve: [00:02:25] It’s been a while, but you’ve just written a book called “Reclaiming Your Community,” and in it you ask how we can address the problem of persistent poverty in low status communities differently. So, I wanted to start by asking you what is a low status community and what does it mean to you?
Majora: [00:02:46] A low status community to me – the way that our company defines it is a place where inequality is assumed by both the people that are in that community and those outside looking in. And so, what that what it looks like and I think that’s easier to describe that way; It’s the kind of places where there are more environmental burdens, where there’s higher rates of poverty, lower educational attainment, the kind of places where you won’t find diverse options for food. Not many great places to invest your money or you’re charged for it, like through check cashing stores or places like that. And it’s just literally the places where inequality is just understood. And so and they look different. They can be inner cities, they could be Native American reservations, they could be the kind of former booming Rust Belt towns that only white people lived in. But the jobs are long gone.
Eve: [00:03:44] This is a really big and hard question. So why is it difficult to improve the status of a low status neighborhood?
Majora: [00:03:52] Well, like a lot of things, it comes down to who benefits from it. And because if you look at those communities, literally billions of dollars are pumped into them through the philanthropic industrial sector and as well as our government. And it looks different, but it comes in the form of whether there are subsidies to build very low-income housing and homeless shelters, whether it’s the multibillion dollar economic engine that’s our pharmaceutical industry that absolutely does profit off of lifestyle related health conditions from diabetes and obesity and heart conditions. And it’s the, you know, the fact that there’s such low educational attainment but really, we’re not investing in public education within those areas either. And so, again, so it’s always like a problem to be solved. Again, folks, there are definitely industries set up to perpetuate that and actually benefit from them, but the people in those communities are not getting any better.
Eve: [00:04:53] So how does the redevelopment industry impact this cycle?
Majora: [00:04:58] Yeah, so like I think there’s an old saying, “all relationships are about real estate” and I believe it’s true in this regard because real estate development can be used as a transformational tool if we use it that way. I mean, think about it. What we’re doing is literally redefining what constitutes what is happening in those areas. So, when you do it by creating really interesting commercial, industrial, residential development. And so, you can tweak the formula and create benefits for the people that are there or not. Right?
Eve: [00:05:32] Right.
Majora: [00:05:32] And so if we’re thinking about development as a transformational tool and if we know that sort of status quo development, which either content to concentrate poverty and everything and all the ills associated with it from low health outcomes, low educational attainment, you know, higher rates of people being incarcerated. If we know that, then what if we designed those places and developed them in ways that actually promoted the opposite?
Eve: [00:06:01] Right.
Majora: [00:06:01] And that’s when we decided to look at a tool. We literally borrowed a page from the business community that looks at if you are an employer, if you own a business and you train, you hire your staff, that’s your talent and you pour resources into them, whether it’s training or benefits or reasons for them to want to stay. You know, you’re not doing it so that your competitor will hire them away. You’re doing it so that your talent sees you as the place to be. But we don’t do that in American low status communities. We don’t treat our communities that way. And so, what we’re trying to do is apply a talent retention approach to real estate development. Like what do folks that are born and raised in those communities, the talented ones, the ones that are either academically or artistically or any kind of talent, the ones that are literally taught to measure success by how far they get away from those communities, what can we do to keep them there? And so, we ask, what are you looking for in the community that you desire? We ask community members in my hometown in the South Bronx, what’s that? In that classic kind of low status community and people of all income levels, they were looking for kind of things that made them feel good about being in their own community, whether it was good places like cafes, restaurants, great parks, places to play and work. Those are the kind of things that they wanted. And so why aren’t we building those things here in our own community? And that is when we realize that that’s the kind of real estate development we wanted to do. And we labeled it a talent retention, real estate development strategy.
Eve: [00:07:47] You talk about real estate development impacting low status neighborhoods in one of two ways, and the first is displacement gentrification, which we touched on, and the second is poverty maintenance. So, tell me about poverty maintenance.
Majora: [00:08:03] Yeah. So, poverty level economic maintenance as we’ve called it, or PLM, which really sounds gross, but because it kind of is, where again, billions pumped into these communities from government and philanthropic sources, but the economic level of the people in that community does not change. So, subsidies that go to low income, quote unquote, affordable housing developers, which is only for very low income housing and even homeless shelters, lots of money in terms of the health clinics and the multinational pharmaceutical industry that are government subsidized and actually do support lifestyle illnesses according to, whether they are diabetes, obesity. But things related to the quality of life that that happen in communities, low status communities and seeing those type of things, even community centers that are that I think are often just there’s like resources that are poured in specifically to support the bright ones in the community. And so those are the ones that measure success by how far they get away. And those type of things literally pull people outside of our own community to seek greener pastures. But again, the people that remain are usually the ones that remain in poverty. And that is the way that those communities are treated.
Eve: [00:09:31] Right.
Majora: [00:09:32] Whether it’s by the philanthropic and our government interest, it’s like we play to that in terms of like creating more low-income housing, more health clinics and opportunities to support people that are chronically suffering from lifestyle health conditions. And through that, we are not seeing the kind of transition from people who are actually creating more healthy opportunities for them, for themselves in those communities. And we’re seeing more and more money pumped into those things. And thus, we’re seeing the concentration of more and more poverty and all the things associated with it, whether it’s low educational attainment, higher rates of folks involved in the justice system, poor health outcomes, and more reasons for more people to want to leave those communities. So again, poverty level, economic maintenance, somebody is doing well, but not the people that are in those communities.
Eve: [00:10:27] So, you know, I think actually in the built environment, what you’re talking about is perpetuated by the affordable building types that we see, because you can really drive through a neighborhood and you can see you can point out affordable housing very clearly. And that, I think, is a very visible manifestation of that Poverty Maintenance or PLM, as you called it.
Majora: [00:10:49] Yeah. The architecture of poverty is, you know, you know it when you see it.
Eve: [00:10:55] Yes.
Majora: [00:10:55] It’s kind of like pornography. It’s like you know it when you see it.
Eve: [00:10:59] Yes, it’s true.
Majora: [00:11:01] Yeah, it may look different in a rural or urban or a suburban context, but everybody knows.
Eve: [00:11:07] That’s right. So, you know, you’ve already touched on this, but you write about how third spaces are key to talent retention in low status community economics. And so what is a third space?
Majora: [00:11:21] So, third spaces are these urban planning parlance for places that are neither work nor home. Right? And it’s just this third space where community can happen. And to us, community is not just a place, it’s an activity. Right? It is literally an action verb, but you do need places to do it. And so, if you don’t and so if you’re in general, if you’re in a low status community, the kind of places, the kind of third spaces that are in those communities are generally not the kind of places where people feel like they’re vibrant and they’re working to support the kind of goals and aspirations for their lives. It’s like, I think about some of the places in my neighborhood in the South Bronx where the largest places were communal real estate was either the waiting rooms at health clinics or pharmacies and also community centers where most people do not go and hang out or don’t want to be seen in. Right. Or for long anyway. And it’s just like, you know, in terms of cafes or cool places to hang out, very few. And so that’s when we realize we’re creating this this architecture or the architecture that’s here is literally creating this sort of like talent repulsion experience for people who are feeling like, I know I’ve got something good to offer because I don’t – Low status communities have never had a shortage of amazing people coming from them. Right. But I do have a problem with them staying. I mean, even America loves the Cinderella story of like somebody being born into some kind of hardscrabble community and they have to pull themselves up and then they go out and make something great of themselves. They’re coming from these communities. Why can’t we make something of ourselves here?
Eve: [00:13:13] Yeah.
Majora: [00:13:14] And that’s both the challenge, but also the joy of realizing that it’s not just this thing that this this miracle that needs to happen, it’s something that we can do because we already have the tools and the keys to our own recovery within our own communities.
Eve: [00:13:33] So, you know, I visited you in the Bronx and there’s not a lot of third places there. But you created a coffee shop, and didn’t you tell me that it was voted, what was it voted, number one?
Majora: [00:13:44] We were voted the best cafe in New York in 2021.
Eve: [00:13:49] Can you believe that? That’s awesome.
Majora: [00:13:51] Yes, I can. Yes, I absolutely can. And it’s because we but it was by time out in New York and it was because we were, and yes, we do have great specialty coffee. I’m sorry. Do you hear that.
Eve: [00:14:09] The dog? Yes.
Majora: [00:14:09] Yes, I’m sorry.
Eve: [00:14:10] Everyone will have to deal with the dog on this podcast.
Majora: [00:14:13] I know.
Eve: [00:14:14] Is my life, right?
Majora: [00:14:15] He’s like really upset because my husband just walked out and he’s like, “don’t go” anyway. I’ll Start over. But yes, we were voted best cafe in New York City in 2021 by “Time Out New York magazine.” And I like to think it wasn’t just because we’ve got great coffee and tea and an awesome local craft beer and wine and sangria, but and really awesome community vibes. But it really was the vibes part because what we did was really instil within our community that our cafe was simply a vessel in which to hold all the great hopes and dreams and aspirations of our community and then gave it a platform to show it. We absolutely took advantage of having to do much of our work outdoors because of COVID, and suddenly we became this, this wasn’t just encased within the four walls of our cafe, but we took it outside and people were doing things like open mics and even credit repair workshops and art exhibits, and basically it was just such a liberating way for people to see how beautiful their community was. And because it was literally like spilling out onto the sidewalk for everybody to see. And I feel like that is the reason why we won that award. You know, not, you know, again, we do have really good stuff there, but it was mostly that we created this this environment that allowed people to see how beautiful their community was and participate in it.
Eve: [00:15:54] So you tested this thesis out. Do you know of any people who stayed in the community because of this third place? So, what’s next? How do you – that’s a big block you’re on, by the way. And yes, that’s going to take quite a lot of work to transform into a community asset, shall we say.
Majora: [00:16:12] Yes. Well, you know, you’ve got to start somewhere. I mean, some environmentalists would say, what’s the best time to plant a tree? You know, 20 years ago. What’s the next best time? Today. And so that’s where you start. And you have to start somewhere. And by creating examples and showing them what it does do is give people that are open to it an opportunity to say, well, if they could do something, why can’t I?
Eve: [00:16:37] Yes.
Majora: [00:16:37] And that is exactly what we’ve seen, like our little cafe has, actually, because it’s just allows people to connect together. We’ve seen everything from people being able to buy homes from one another. We’ve seen people start new businesses and locate them within the community. We’ve seen people develop their own capacity to see themselves as a different person, but the same one, but being able to do it within their own community. I’ve been incredibly excited by seeing folks realize that looking around and going, Wait, there’s people like me here. Why do I feel like I need to to escape when I could build something right here? So, yes. And what’s also super exciting is that I’ve also seen folks from around the country intuitively do this. And writing this book was simply a way to help other folks see that this may be mostly my story and how I got to the point where it’s like reclaiming my community was something that I want to see everybody to do because I feel like we have to do something to sort of repair the social fabric of our country. And we should start in the places that are most impacted by some of the specious problems that whether it’s systemic racism and classism have actually created in this country, but really created low status communities that are not helping us as a as a country evolve into the greatness that it could be.
Eve: [00:18:11] So I know you’re also working on a second third space, which I’ve had the good fortune to visit.
Majora: [00:18:16] Yes.
Eve: [00:18:17] A beautiful old railway building. Tell us about that. What’s going on there? It’s not far away. It’s like less than half a block away from your coffee shop, right?
Majora: [00:18:28] My world is really small at this point. I mean, the coffee shop is literally a three-minute walk away. The other project that you’re referring to is even a minute walk away from where I live.
Eve: [00:18:41] Yes, yeah, yeah.
Majora: [00:18:43] It’s a historic rail station designed by Cass Gilbert, America’s first starchitect, as they call them, Cass Gilbert, who designed also the Woolworth Building and the US Supreme Court building. It was quite the dandy in his day in the early part of the 20th century, and so we had this beautiful aesthetic. And so, this old rail station is about 4000 square feet, and so we’re transforming it into an event hall. So, my husband James and I actually literally did the initial demolition ourselves. Fortunately, we got other people to help us to finish it up, and it’s super exciting because the idea that we can take a space and by its nature as an event hall, it’s literally being filled by other people to do all sorts of things. And so we’re hoping to see it used as an amazing music venue, which actually sort of hearkens back to literally right across the street from where the rail station is, used to be a place where vaudeville excuse me, vaudeville, you know, Latin music as well is like it was like a musical and theater place where people would come right across the we want to bring some of that back as well. You know, and it’s also really interesting for me because that rail station is the reason why my family decided to settle there. My father was from down south, a big old black man who was a Pullman porter, and he bought our house for cash because back in the 1940s, there weren’t a whole lot of banks giving money to black men for mortgages. So, he actually won 15,000 in a horse race in California, put it in a satchel, literally cash, put it in a satchel, brought it back to New York. You found an Italian family that would sell to him, and he bought it.
Eve: [00:20:38] Which, in itself, was unusual, right?
Majora: [00:20:41] Literally, yeah. And he didn’t feel comfortable staying in the house for a couple of years, so he just rented it to them because it was the neighborhood was all white, but he bought that house because there was talk that they were going to reactivate that particular rail station and that was actually his line. So he was just like, Oh. Two blocks from my house. That’s what I want!
Eve: [00:21:01] He understood the power of transit, right?
Majora: [00:21:04] Exactly. Unfortunately, they never reopened it for transit, but he did have the conductor to slow down the train so he could hop off and climb out to his house.
Eve: [00:21:12] Oh, that’s great.
Majora: [00:21:13] Yeah, so that was pretty funny.
Eve: [00:21:16] Right? So, you know, I have to go back to the words that you’re quote that’s on the walls of the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. And you said, “Nobody should have to move out of the neighborhood to live in a better one.” And it really sounds like you just got tired of waiting around for someone to fix yours.
Majora: [00:21:34] Yes. In a nutshell, it was just like, you know, I mean, it was a little deeper than that, actually, because it really did come from this place where, you know, because I was one of those kids who measured success by how far she got away. I was told from very early on that I was a smart kid and that I was going to grow up and be somebody. And of course, I believed that I was just like I was really smart. I was reading when I was three. I was like, I’m getting out of here, especially when my brother was killed. And, you know, and I did watch, you know, because of financial disinvestment. All, so many of the buildings in my neighborhood were burned down. And I watched a lot of it. And there was a there was some trauma associated, I think, with like seeing and feeling these things, experiencing these things. So, yeah, I was like, education’s going to be my ticket out. And it was until I ended up back here only because I was broke and I needed a cheap place to stay when I went to graduate school. And that’s the only reason why I came back. And it did. It felt like such a horrifying defeat to be this kid with like I had a bunch of letters behind my name. I went to good schools, and then all of a sudden, I’m like back home and mommy and daddy’s house in the South Bronx. Hard and, but what was amazing was discovering that that education and distance actually was a blessing because like that’s when I saw when the city and state were building this huge waste facility on our waterfront, and we already handled an enormous amount of it. I was like, Oh my gosh. Like, it’s because we just this is history repeating itself. We are a poor community of color, politically vulnerable, and this is what happens. And all I could think was I mean, first was shame when I understood it and I was like, oh, like I just wanted to run away. And I did. And you know what? No one blamed me. But now I see it like, literally, with like eyes completely wide open, and I wanted to do something about it. And yeah, like, I wanted nice things in my own doggone community. Absolutely. For me and for everybody else.
Eve: [00:23:51] Yes. Yeah. I don’t know what to say next because I know how hard it’s been for you. It’s an amazing it’s an amazing journey that you’ve taken. I just want to say that. So, you also talked to me about the Jumpstart program in Philly, which I actually I interviewed Ken Weinstein, who launched the program in our second podcast season. If anyone wants to listen, it’s an amazing program. Tell me about it and why you why you love it so much.
Majora: [00:24:23] Wow. Yes. So, I was actually getting an award in Philadelphia, and it was the Edward Bacon Award who was actually it is Kevin Bacon’s father. And but he was like this amazing urban planner in Philly, and everybody loved him. Yeah.
Eve: [00:24:42] Yeah, yeah.
Majora: [00:24:43] And so I was getting this award and like part of it, and it’s like a really big thing over there. And so, part of it was that I got to hang out with some, some notable people in Philly, and I was like, okay, cool. And I sat in on this roundtable with graduates from this program called Jumpstart Germantown. And they were all, almost all black folks younger than me. And they were all talking about, like, the deals that they were doing. And I was just like. What? This many in a major American city talking about real estate deals and what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. And I was amazed. And so, but Jumpstart Germantown literally was a way to get folks from communities just like mine to be more involved in residential real estate development in Philadelphia, in Germantown. And so, the way that it was done, Ken Weinstein was literally, was getting inundated with, because he’s really a nice affable guy, and folks were just like, how do you do this? And he’s just like, oh, I can tell you. And he’d give them that information, and then he realized this is too much. And then he got his friends like help, created a training that gave people just enough information so that they could actually get out on their own. And then the best thing that he did was create a fund. So, where he gave the first couple of loans to those folks to do their first few deals.
Eve: [00:26:13] I remember him saying he realized that no matter what he taught them, if they couldn’t get the financing, it was useless.
Majora: [00:26:18] Exactly.
Eve: [00:26:19] And they couldn’t get the financing.
Majora: [00:26:20] No, no, no.
Eve: [00:26:22] What a guy. Yeah.
Majora: [00:26:24] So I was just like. Wait. What? And I totally flipped out and actually decided, I mean, I literally went to Philly for the next four weeks to just to take that class. And I’d love at some point to be able to start a project like that here in New York. And I actually encourage everybody to consider it in other places, too. But again, what we saw there was an incredible example. It wasn’t like a non-profit kind of like, “Oh, we’re here to help the poor people.” It was more like, “Nah, we’re going to help you compete” in this capitalist system that we’re in so that you can actually reclaim your own doggone community. And I was blown away.
Eve: [00:27:05] Pretty fabulous. And he’s franchised it, right? So, there have been a number of different neighborhoods and cities that are now have jumpstart programs.
Majora: [00:27:13] Yes, quite a few at this point.
Eve: [00:27:15] If I weren’t so busy, I would start one.
Majora: [00:27:17] I know.
Eve: [00:27:18] Pretty it’s pretty fabulous. But requires a little bit of resources. I want to ask one other big question and that is what does meaningful community engagement look like, especially when it comes to redevelopment of an area? What should it look like?
Majora: [00:27:37] Yeah. For us, meaningful community engagement means that it’s actually driven, at least in part, by listening to what the community’s hopes and dreams and aspirations actually are. And by no means assuming that you know what they are before you start. Because if you do, basically what we’ll do is what we see the non-profit industrial complex and even our government telling us what needs to happen in those communities. And that’s the same kind of status quo development that actually concentrates poverty. And what we did, we literally created surveys and did focus groups, and we even had an advisory board built from very informal leaders within our community that allow folks to give them reasons to think about. Yeah, what does it look like? What does a great community look like for me? And they were really specific about what those things were, and we knew it because they would talk about the things that they would leave the community to experience. And when we realized like honestly, where somebody’s hardest is, where they spend their money, and if you weren’t spending it in your community, what were you spending it on? And could we actually create the same kind of experience in our community that make people that just to give people a second look. And it has been hard because there’s such low expectations applied to low status communities and after a while people even internalize them. And that’s why it’s difficult to do that, which is why I’m so glad that I’ve actually gotten there’s company now. I mean, being the first one in to do something as crazy as like a really high-end specialty coffee shop in a place that hasn’t had anything like that in decades. It was exhausting. But at the same time.
Eve: [00:29:35] You got a lot of pushback early on from the neighbors, right?
Majora: [00:29:38] I got some pushback. I didn’t get a lot. What I got was they were very loud, but I think it was basically rooted in fear.
Eve: [00:29:46] I agree. I was going to say the same thing. I think change is very difficult for most people. And.
Majora: [00:29:52] Yeah.
Eve: [00:29:53] And they’re worried about being left out, you know, and, and they usually are left out, let’s be honest about it. So, you know, that was really why I asked that question. Like, how do we make people feel like part of something?
Majora: [00:30:08] Right, and their people are left out because the folks that are doing most of the development never had any intention of letting them in in the first place. I mean, if you think about the kind of development that happens in poverty level economic maintenance, I mean, there isn’t a place for most of the people in our community to even participate at all. I mean, there’s this thing, like, oh, we do community engagement and outreach, which means you get people together for some kind of little visioning thing and some ridiculous highly paid consultant gets like post-its up on a wall. And then you say, you did it. What did you do? I mean, it’s just like this is ridiculous. The kind of development that happens in low status communities was never intended to include people from those communities, except as recipients of like whatever they’re putting out, which we know concentrates poverty, and everything associated with it.
Eve: [00:31:04] Or gentrified it. Right. But either way, they’re left out. Yeah.
Majora: [00:31:09] Yeah, totally. And so, they know that. And that’s why I’ve been advocating as much as I can and also literally putting myself in that role of developer because I’m like, I’m already trying to create more opportunities for folks like we’ve done revenue shares for the cafe. We, we set it up so that people from our community can actively use it in a way that meets their goals and dreams and aspirations. I do that and I’m not a non-profit of not like I do that on my own. We’re absolutely looking to develop more opportunities for crowdfunding investment projects, for people within our community, for the other projects that we’re doing, because we want them to feel like they actually have an investment in their own community. And the only way to do that –
Eve: [00:32:01] I’ll help you bring them to Small Change. That’d be so cool, I’ll be waiting.
Majora: [00:32:02] I’m pretty, I would love that. I would love that. So, it is different when people do the development from our own communities because we are sensitive to what we haven’t had and what we do need and what our dreams are, because we bothered to ask and I’ve also experienced it, you know, I was that little girl who was just like, there’s nothing in this neighborhood. And it makes me feel like I’ve got a stain attached to me because of the way people think about my community. And, and I don’t want that on anybody. Like, I also don’t want them to feel like they’ve got to leave in order to believe that that they’re of any value.
Eve: [00:32:48] Awesome. So final question. If you were to change one thing about real estate development in the US to make better cities for everyone, what would that be? Maybe that’s unfair, you can say two or three.
Majora: [00:33:04] Yes, I’m going to say a few things. I’m sure. So, oh, gosh. If I could change the way real estate development happens in order to support more people doing it. I mean, I’m not exactly sure how to do this, but I know that the cost of doing it just literally is physically doing it is just so high. And I just wish that the cost of construction could go down. Don’t ask me how to do that.
Eve: [00:33:30] Oh God, yeah, everyone I think wishes that.
Majora: [00:33:33] But it’s just insane. And then sort of like the barriers to entry I wish would be a lot more equitable. I mean, I remember my very first deal where and it was just to do a small rehab know our mortgage broker literally made me write a letter because she looked at me, looked at my community and literally said, you know, I have a story in the book. She was like. Why did you want another house? Or another property? You already have one. And I was like, do?
Eve: [00:34:09] Because this is called wealth creation. This is called Building My Future, right?
Majora: [00:34:14] Yes. And but she, to her, it was just like, why would a black woman want to do that? Especially from a neighborhood like that. And so, she made me write a letter to the underwriters explaining to them that I was a fine, upstanding individual. That does nice things for her community. And I was like, I know she doesn’t ask any white men about this, but you know what? I wrote the letter. So, this was me. And I had great credit, property in mind, a willing seller, a free development loan, already pre-approved. I mean, it was just like and that’s a small example. You know, I hear about them all the time, you know, access to capital, how hard it can be.
Eve: [00:34:58] Yeah. So do I, I think the access to capital is completely inequitable.
Majora: [00:35:02] Yeah, exactly. And those are the main two things. But also, I think the other one is making sure that people in low status communities see themselves as rightful developers of their own community. Because that is one of the hardest things where I think even some of the challengers that I get is more like, who do you think you are? And these are people from communities like mine within the social justice industrial complex who are just like, “You shouldn’t do that.” And it’s just like, why should that? It does like because again, such low expectations of folks in our communities like here, I’m being challenged because I’m actually saying, no, I can do better than what’s actually happening here. Yeah. And I get it coming and going sometimes. But there are more people who see the value of it and who are actually thinking about how they can do it themselves.
Eve: [00:35:59] Well, thank you, Marjora. I love you to death. And I think this is fantastic. And I can’t wait to visit again.
Majora: [00:36:08] I know.
Eve: [00:36:09] Hang out in that coffee shop.
Majora: [00:36:11] Yes. Yes. Oh, my gosh. It’s so super exciting. And wait till you see the rail station within the next few weeks. We’re getting it ready for a pretty big event. Ted X the Bronx is
Eve: [00:36:25] Fabulous!
Majora: [00:36:26] Doing their event there. Yeah,
Eve: [00:36:27] That’s really fabulous.
Majora: [00:36:29] You know, we’re phasing it in.
Eve: [00:36:31] I have to come back again soon.
Majora: [00:36:33] You’re going to love it.
Eve: [00:36:34] Cool. Okay. Bye.
Majora: [00:36:35] Thank you. All right. Take care. Bye bye.
Eve: [00:36:44] That was Majora Carter. I’m repeating myself, but I’m still in awe. Majora is uncompromising about her mission. She lives and works in Hunts Point in the South Bronx, one of America’s lowest status communities, just two blocks from the house she grew up in. When it became clear that no coffee shop operator wanted to operate out of her space in the neighborhood. She created her own business to achieve a goal. Now that is putting your money where your mouth is.
Eve: [00:37:27] You can find out more about this episode or others you might have missed on the show notes page at our website RethinkRealEstateForGood.co. There’s lots to listen to there. A special thanks to David Allardice for his excellent editing of this podcast and original music, and thanks to you for spending your time with me today. We’ll talk again soon, but for now, this is Eve Picker signing off to go make some change.
Image courtesy of Majora Carter