BIG, Majora Carter present ideas on green village building

By Heather McGraw

A coalition of activists, experts and urban farmers met last week to discuss ways to take advantage of the changes in city government the elections will bring.

The meeting held on Feb. 8 was organized by Naomi Davis, president and founder of Blacks in Green. The speakers, whom Davis referred to as the “All Stars,” shared recommendations for policy implementation that would help bring green villages to underserved neighborhoods and food deserts.

“We are here because we know in Chicago a seat change is happening politically,” Davis said. “It’s an opportunity to really insert some strategic important education.”

Majora Carter, a MacArthur fellow, closed the presentations with her experiences of turning underserved communities green.

“I’m from a place where there are an awful lot of very [high-cost] citizens,” she said. “It was the place time forgot. This is what I grew up believing.”

Carter is the founder of Sustainable South Bronx, a company that works with urban communities to help implement green village building techniques. She now runs a consulting firm, the Majora Carter Group LLC, and hosts the special public radio series “The Promised Land.” Carter shares her experiences and techniques with groups at a college level to entire communities and cities.

The event was presented by BIG, Gensler and North Lawndale Employment Network.

BIG, founded in 2007, focuses on Davis’ ideas from her book “The 8 Principles of Green-Village-Building” and the underlying principles she calls “Grannynomics.”

“One of the ways we find fundamental to the success of a village—a local living economy—is to have neighbor-owned businesses,” Davis said. “The smarty-pants in us needs to return to what we call the ‘grannynomics’ of life.”

The idea of “grannynomics” is based on the lifestyle of Davis’ grandmother, Adelia Thompson Siggers, of Mississippi, a sharecropper’s wife.

Davis’ “8 Principles” was the theme behind the talk. A different BIG “All Star” presented each of the principles, with an emphasis on policy and implementation.

“These are people who are tried and true,” she said. “They are on the ground, in action, with best practices and policies that are going to allow us to enjoy the ‘triple-bottom-line’ approach.”

Davis’ “triple-bottom-line” approach is centered on people, the planet and prosperity to create well-rounded organized ideas for sustainability. Presentations included everything from community performance to microlending.

One of the “All Stars” to speak before Carter was Orrin Williams, executive director of the Center for Urban Transformation. Williams spoke about expanding the ideas of urban agriculture to more than community gardens and nonprofit projects.

“What we’re here to talk about right now is taking it to the next level,” Williams said.

Davis said the ultimate goal behind the meeting was to share ideas with others who have them and spread information to those who need it.

“We are here because we understand green is a passion for some of us and a mystery to others,” she said.