Majora Carter shows how brain drain cripples low-status communities and maps out a development strategy focused on talent retention to help them break out of economic stagnation.
"My musical, In the Heights, explores issues of community, gentrification, identity and home, and the question: Are happy endings only ones that involve getting out of your neighborhood to achieve your dreams? In her refreshing new book, Majora Carter writes about these issues with great insight and clarity, asking us to re-examine our notions of what community development is and how we invest in the futures of our hometowns. This is an exciting conversation worth joining.”
How can we solve the problem of persistent poverty in low-status communities? Majora Carter argues that these areas need a talent-retention strategy, just like the ones companies have. Retaining homegrown talent is a critical part of creating a strong local economy that can resist gentrification. But too many people born in low-status communities measure their success by how far away from them they can get.
Carter, who could have been one of them, returned to the South Bronx and devised a development strategy rooted in the conviction that these communities have the resources within themselves to succeed. She advocates measures such as
• Building mixed-income instead of exclusively low-income housing to create a diverse and robust economic ecosystem
• Showing homeowners how to maximize the long-term value of their property so they won't succumb to quick-cash offers from speculators
• Keeping people and dollars in the community by developing vibrant “third spaces”—restaurants, bookstores, and places like Carter's own Boogie Down Grind Cafe
This is a profoundly personal book. Carter writes about her brother's murder, how turning a local dumping ground into an award-winning park opened her eyes to the hidden potential in her community, her struggles as a woman of color confronting the “male and pale” real estate and nonprofit establishments, and much more. It is a powerful rethinking of poverty, economic development, and the meaning of success.