The National Portrait Gallery recently premiered AT&T Celebrates "The Black List," an exhibition featuring 50 large-sized portraits of accomplished African Americans that will remain on display until April 22, 2012.
"The Black List" was conceived, photographed and filmed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders in his East Village apartment in New York City after a nudge from his friend, the acclaimed novelist Toni Morrison (who's also a part of the exhibition). It was subsequently made into a documentary that aired on HBO in 2008.
Environmental Activist Majora Carter is one of the 50 distinguished African Americans included in "The Black List." The Root caught up with Majora Carter at a special reception held at the gallery.
The Root: How does it feel to be "blacklisted"? And what's been the response since appearing on the HBO documentary to now this traveling photo exhibition?
Majora Carter: [Laughs.] It's a wonderful honor and I wish everyone could feel this way because everyone contributes a little bit of something to be a part of that list; we just don't necessarily embrace it within ourselves.
Being on HBO and being in "The Black List" has put my work out there in a way that is extraordinary. People have begun to see environmental equality and equity as something that can happen in our lifetime as part of the civil rights movement and as part of something to create more economic diversity.
TR: In your video interview, you talked about being hesitant to tell people where you're from. Why is it important to be proud — and an advocate — for where you're from?
MC: Well, now I really do believe that you don't have to move out of your neighborhood to live in a better one. All of my work is about really creating models for that to happen. To show that it's more than a possibility but a reality. A continuation of my work is real estate development work — community development — which is for me, how do you build communities that allow people to be their best selves? So I'm really excited about that.
TR: So who would be on your personal Black List?
MC: Oh, my goodness! Everybody who was in this exhibit but there would also be people both inside and outside of this country, as well — Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmental champion and spiritual godparent of mine who recently passed away. She was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
TR: What's the riskiest thing you've ever done in your career to get "blacklisted"?
MC: I've literally been blacklisted in the New York City government. I challenged the notion of what development could be in a place like the South Bronx to usher in economic development, which wasn't exactly taken well.