Yesterday I had the opportunity to hear the speakers at the second occurence of TEDxAirlie. There were several great topics by various speakers from all realms of business and social action. Inclusion across race, gender, and physical ability; cognition and empathy; sustainability and agriculture; and entrepreneurship and art. Being an alumni speaker of the event I’m easily proud of each of the speakers, knowing what is required for them in regards to writing, memorization, practice, rehearsal, and delivery. I’m also easily proud because a couple speakers were friends of mine.
While I haven’t had the chance to work with either of these gentlemen yet, I’m familiar with their causes and support them strongly. Cedric Harrison is the Asst. Coordinator of Community College Minority Male Leaders Center and founded Support the Port, a cause driven non-profit focused on lifting the state of the community’s neglected, particularly in the African American districts. Evan Folds has run businesses serving organic and niche gardeners including Progressive Farms, runs agricultural consulting company BeAgriculture, supports local traditional and urban organic farming and is the county Soil and Water Conservation Supervisor. Both of them delivered messages of a future that is inspiring and attainable for our city.
Speaking of our city, I want to take a moment to discuss this guy.
Previous to the program release for the TEDx event, I didn’t know of Jason Graham. Jason, who performs under the name MOsely WOtta was the opening performance for the speakers. Hailing from the city of Bend in Oregon, Jason is an active member of his town’s poetry, slam, hiphop, art, and education communities both as a performer and a leader. His presentation included a vulnerable speech and written poem about the metaphorical building of bridges, or rather, the act of being a bridge and representing two simultaneous and sometimes opposing states.
Jason represented two simultaneous states in another sense as well. For one, coming from Oregon and appearing for a North Carolina event, he created a bridge between two separate communities. Hold on to this thought, it will be minorly important shortly. Secondly, he inhabited the shallow creek that sits between spoken word and public speaking. This is very dear to me as I am a member of my local spoken word and writing groups as well as being a presenter and TEDx speaker. There’s a gap here that needs to be navigated.
TEDxAirlie is a fairly important event with non-arbitrary consequences. Preparing for the event brings the university, businesses, several industries, and otherwise unconnected individuals into cooperation. It allows a platform for local leaders to enter a national stage with their work, message, and insights. Further, it allows us to frame what we respect or care about as a city in regards to technology, entertainment, and design, TED’s acronym. Yesterday the city demonstrated that it respects spoken word. That is huge for local poets.
I had the opportunity to speak briefly with Jason after he was on stage and chat about our respective communities, which didn’t seem too different from one another. Well, except in a certain regard. Here in Wilmington, North Carolina we still subscribe to good-ol’-boy society. There’s a special knock to get into every door, and you are nearly always shown the door by invitation only. No matter how present our poetry sector community leaders are, they are still only obvious and visible to people in the sector. Jason was visible from the outside of his home in Bend, and in being visible he did us a huge favor.
Yesterday several people live streamed, watch partied, and paid tickets to view a spoken word artist open for a major speaking event. We Wilmington performance poets should be paying attention. Being very present in the social and entrepreneurial culture clubs around here I know there are several opportunities for poets to open and lead off events. There simply needs to be a push to take advantage of the expectation and normalization provided to us by Jason Graham.
I look forward to watching our artists make and ride the wave created by the meaningful ripples from this TEDx, and to see them build a bridge between the worlds of spoken word and public speaking. It could mean a lot to the growth, cohesion, and identity of Wilmington. If nothing else, I think it would be extremely nifty.