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June 22, 2011

Modern-Day Earth Angels

woman standing in forest

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Eco Amazons & PowerHouse Books

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New York

Vital stats: Founder of Sustainable South Bronx, a nonprofit; and the Majora Carter Group, an economic consulting firm.

Backstory: When I was 7, my big brother was shot and killed in our South Bronx neighborhood. Woodlawn, his cemetery, was one of the most lush, green places I'd ever seen. As kids, we couldn't experience nature here, and I wanted to change that.

Bold move: When I came back to the South Bronx after graduating from Wesleyan University, I read that Mayor Giuliani was opening a waste facility nearby. Forty percent of the city's commercial waste already came here — this would double that. I was dumbfounded, and organized protests; at one hearing, we got more than 700 people. They stopped the meeting when the stenographer ran out of paper; the waste facility never opened. In 2001, I founded Sustainable South Bronx (SSBx) to support restoration projects like the Bronx Greenway, which will improve air quality in a neighborhood where one in four kids has asthma.

Turning point: In 2005, the MacArthur Foundation called to say I'd won their "genius" fellowship. They had to explain a couple times that the money was actually for me — I kept telling them to make the check out to SSBx! I was so poor that if I hadn't been living at my boyfriend's, I could have been homeless.

What's next: In 2008, I left SSBx to found the Majora Carter Group, a green economic consulting firm that develops investment opportunities in marginalized communities across the U.S. There are so many other "South Bronxes" out there!

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