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TEDxProvidence: a gift to our community
By Jessica David / October 4, 2017 /   Loading Disqus...

2017 marked the sixth year of TEDxProvidence, and it was the best yet. I knew we had amazing people here in Rhode Island, but the speakers at this past Saturday’s event once again blew me away. 

TEDx, “in the spirit of ideas worth spreading,” are local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience; the x symbolizes an independently organized TED event. This year’s theme for TEDxProvidence was past, present, and future. 

The Foundation is pleased to sponsor TEDxProvidence through our Civic Leadership Fund. Events like this remind us of the talent, creativity, and determination that exist in our community. And they give us a reason to talk to each other on a far deeper level than usual, to learn about one another and share something of ourselves.

And the speakers did not disappoint. Some of the highlights for me:

  • Christopher Johnson, spoken word artist, performed a beautiful poem he wrote for his daughter.
  • Amara Berry, who teaches college-level STEM topics to elementary students, introduced us to her grandparents, among the first African American astronomy students at the University of Texas.
  • Kiara Butler, founder of Diversity Talks, told her very personal journey to speaking her truths aloud.
  • Collen Daley Ndoye brought onstage the staff of Project Weber Renew, a peer-driven organization providing street outreach for sex workers and at-risk people. They received a standing ovation.
  • Paul Salem, co-founder and senior managing partner of Providence Equity Partners, told the audience about his dad, who always told him he was the luckiest person in the world.
  • Raymond Two Hawks Watson, a 2015 Rhode Island Innovation Fellow, provided his definition of culture (“the way things are done by specific groups of people and the reasons they do them”) and argued that connecting at the cultural level can fight racism.

The day also included performances from Case Closed, Eastern Medicine Singers, and Call Security. 

Special thanks to the board and volunteers of the Providence Speaking Society, who put on TEDxProvidence. Events like this are a gift to our community, but they are also a huge amount of work. The organizers made it look easy. 

For those who weren’t able to make it, videos of the presentations will be available online soon. I hope you watch a few and feel as inspired and humbled as I did.

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