On Day 2 of the 2022 All BUILD Convening, awardees participated in a plenary session with Majora Carter. Carter is a real estate developer, urban revitalization strategy consultant, MacArthur Fellow, and Peabody Award winning broadcaster. She’s also the author of Reclaiming Your Community: You Don’t Have to Move Out of Your Neighborhood to Live in a Better One, a book covering her experience pioneering sustainable development in her hometown of the South Bronx and beyond. 

Carter points out that community residents hold the keys to the future of their own community.   

Carter’s experience in many of the same areas that BUILD community partners work – environmental justice, economic development, healthy food systems and housing, and addressing the toxic impact of racism on our health – made her a natural fit for the All BUILD Convening. She shared the story of her work in the South Bronx, from creating a park out of a local landfill, to changing the narrative of what assets already exist in a community, to working with policymakers to advance development without displacing residents. Of the latter, she noted how her experience of living in a “low status” community taught her that outside perspectives and well-intentioned interventions don’t always reflect the experience or goals of those that live in them.  

Carter shared a story about the power of small changes to shift narratives about a community.   

She also detailed the ways that investing in the community residents who live in an area is equally as important as investing in building or development projects. She focuses on improving community conditions without the assumption that those who succeed will leave for greener pastures – or be driven out – but instead will continue to thrive in the community they call home.  

Carter discusses “talent retention” in a community as a long-term strategy for economic and community development.  

As Carter talked candidly with BUILD awardee Kim Foreman, Executive Director of Environmental Health Watch, Carter acknowledged how challenging this work can be – personally, politically, and socially. She commended the BUILD awardees in the room for leaning in and building systems that place community residents in the driver’s seat.  

Carter emphasizes the importance of moving to action for impact.  

One attendee reflected afterwards: “She inspired me and gave me practical and actionable advice and tools. This work is hard. And I know my next steps.” As BUILD communities move forward together, these opportunities to learn and feel inspired together are critical to remember what’s possible – and to put our community dreams into action.  

Majora Carter (center front) sits among attendees of the All BUILD Convening.

Looking for more reflections from the All BUILD Convening? Check out this meeting recap and a spotlight on funder and awardee conversations