“You only get one first love, one first kiss and one first TEDx…” – Sarge Salman, TEDxBaltimore Organizer
That quote summed up my feelings about my attending my first TED-affiliated event. Having watched TED videos for several years and wanted to someday attend, I jumped at the chance to attend TEDxBaltimore once I learned it was being held on January 25th at my alma mater, Morgan State University. Within a week of following the event’s twitter feed I fell into a volunteer social media position which turned into running the TEDxBaltimore twitter account during the event. One first TEDx indeed.
First held in 2011, this year’s event theme was “Baltimore Rewired: Reconceptualizing the Urban Landscape.” Featuring 21 visionaries, with most being from the Baltimore metro area, Baltimore Rewired touched on a variety of topics including education, medicine science and technology, art with the recurring sub-theme of city life and how to improve it. To further explore this concept, the event was divided into four sessions: Our Future; The People Around Us; Building Community; and Finding Your Place.
The first session, Our Future was especially uplifting as it showcased the incredible drive and creativity of Baltimore City’s young people and the adults who are helping them realize their full potential. The highlight of this session was Keimmie Booth, a 17-year old senior high school student from Baltimore City who currently is the captain of “The RoboDoves,” an all-womens robotics team based from Baltimore’s Western High School and a rising tech innovator. Booth gave a talk on her current activities which led to a standing ovation from the crowd. A bit of context: Considering the type of press Baltimore usually gets, especially about its young people, Booth’s demonstration of the good works and ideas coming from Baltimore City school students made for a prideful audience.
Sessions Two and Three focus heavily on local affairs. Highlights included talks from Aaron Henkin, host of “The Signal” on WYPR, a local public radio affiliate and Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, a reconstructive surgeon for University of Maryland’s Shock Trauma Center. Henkin’s talk focused on the lives of everyday Baltimoreans and what you can learn by starting a conversation with a stranger. Dr. Rodriguez discusses advances in face transplants at University of Maryland and and wowed the crowd with demonstration footage of a recent patient who was a successful case.
The crowd favorite at this time was Lois Feinblatt (who I personally met during the event rehearsals and is an absolute jem), who described herself as “from housewife to sex therapist.” Feinblatt discussed her work at Johns Hopkins where she and many other housewives were recruited to in the 1960s for training as mental health counselors and the impact of women in the workplace at that time. Feinblatt’s talk provided a timely look at the progression of women’s and civil rights in the U.S. from a very personal perspective.
Session Four’s focus was on identity from different viewpoints. Once again, there was a heavy focus on Baltimore’s young people, including talks from Evodie Ngoy, a budding filmmaker and Shaquille Brooks, up and coming technology guru, both students at Baltimore’s Digital Harbor High School. Ngoy, an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo, talked about the student immigrant and refugee experience in Baltimore City and showed her short film “The Paradise that Wasn’t.” Brooks’ talked on the possibilities of how technology can improve education and civic life. Once again, the crowd was in awe of Baltimore’s young talent. The event concluded with a performance from students members of ORCHkids, a year-round music program promoting social change and bolstering arts education in the City. The high-sprited performance was a perfect way to end a long but powerful day. The talks by all of the speakers gave the audience plenty to ponder and demonstrated a city that is truly being ‘re-wired’ from its past.
To learn more about the TEDxBaltimore experience, visit http://www.tedxbaltimore.com