It’s been seven years since TEDx was in Harlem but it’s back for this year’s Harlem Week, and better than ever! Local, independent versions of TED Talks, TEDx events deliver the same inspirational, forward-thinking ideas; from science to business to global issues—in more than 100 languages.
Independently run TEDx events, like TEDxHarlem, help share ideas in communities around the world. This year’s TEDxHarlem speakers will discuss professional development, money management, health and wellness, entrepreneurship, small business, branding and much more.
As Harlem continues evolving into a financial and technological hub, TEDxHarlem, which is taking place at Mist Harlem on Aug. 21, addresses some of the key themes in this resurgence. “I think [of] the whole dynamic of how things are changing in Harlem in terms of gentrification,” says Kimberly Gray of TEDxHarlem Partnerships/Sponsorship. “What better time to talk about innovation, entrepreneurship and technology? If you think back to the original Harlem Renaissance that too was a big explosion of new opportunities in the community.”
Though Harlem has been broadly recognized as a cultural mecca since the days of the Harlem Renaissance, some residents as well those outside the community, have lost sight of its deep capacity for generating the ideas that push culture to evolve. Holding an event like TEDx in Harlem signals, says TEDxHarlem co-organizer Kenneth Johnson that “Harlem is an ideas center. It allows for people within and outside the community to gain a clear understanding about people within the community and how incredible they’ve been and what they’ve meant to the world at large.”
Dr. Dan Young, the co-organizer of the event, has also organized TEDxWilmingtonUniversity, TEDxGoldeyBeacomCollege and TEDxDover, sees TEDx talks as the most public and engaging way for a community to assert into intellectual identity. “I see TEDx as one of the most important drivers of academic collaboration in the world today. We are truly bringing Harlem into the conversation as a hub of intellectual curiosity and creativity,” Dr. Young says.
All of the upcoming TEDxHarlem’s speakers are from Harlem or currently living there. They include the CEO of Silicon Harlem, Clayton Banks, Arva Rice who is president and CEO of the New York Urban League, financial motivator Ash Cash, and sexologist Michelle Hope.
Of Ash Cash Johnson explains, “He speaks about financial literacy but he has a really unique platform where he directs a lot of his message to a younger audience.”
Michelle Hope is a sexologist, who has appeared in multiple media outlets, including BET. Johnson discussed how Hope stands out from the rest of the professionals in her area. “It’s really interesting,” Johnson says, “She has a platform where she speaks about how sexual attitudes and behaviors can have an impact on a community and what that looks like. She also has some ideas about how we can have those difficult conversations with individuals in the community about changing these attitudes.”
Another speaker whose focus will involve Health and Wellness is Maria Solis Belizaire, founder of Latinos Run. According to the organization’s website, it’s “An international movement that brings together those in the Latino community through Running & Fitness.” Says Johnson, “She speaks about how our community is changing from a health and wellness standpoint. Maria kind of speaks on how physical activity can improve health and wellness. And then there’s the trickle down effect to improve the community; how the food in your community, the services in your community, and what people view as their leisure activities, affect them as a whole.”
Finally, Minda Harts, a recent addition to the slate of speakers, is founder and CEO of My Weekly Memo. Johnson describes her platform as one “Solely on women getting into the C suite; diversity and inclusion from that standpoint. She has a book coming out, I believe, maybe a few days after TEDx on so we were glad to get her in the middle of a book tour.”
As Johnson and co-organizer Dan Young started to put the event together, they thought about what type or individual they would ideally want as a speaker. Johnson explains, “They were people waving the flag not only for Harlem, but speaking about professional development, technology, different areas that are true to the [original TED] format, from the standpoint of being leaders in their industry and the world.”
I asked Johnson and Gray who they ideally hoped their event would appeal to. Said Gray, “Most importantly, we want to address the local community. We’re raising awareness in the community, but also letting people external to the community know what’s going on in Harlem in 2019, and what they can expect to see in the future.” Johnson added, “I was motivated by the fact that there were a lot of people that weren’t familiar with Ted. It’s presenting a platform where people can get educated by speakers that they typically don’t see. And that’s really kind of what Ted is all about.”
TEDxHarlem tickets are on sale now: https://www.ted.com/TEDx/events/32277