Over the weekend, students, faculty and alumni gathered in Oliva Hall to listen to a series of TEDx talks. TED is a nonprofit media organization that was founded in 1984, and its conferences have taken place annually since 1990. TED conferences are known for being forums in which presenters may share ideas they find compelling. Differing slightly from TED conferences, TEDx conferences are independently organized events held in communities around the world. Conn has hosted TEDx conferences for years, with this year’s theme being “Dare to Bend.” All of the speakers were tasked with embodying this theme in their talk. The talks varied greatly in their content, but all contained some aspect of commentary on bending norms.
Talks were given by students, professors, alumni and other prominent figures from a variety of backgrounds. TEDx began at 10 am and concluded around 4 pm. Talk topics ranged from virtual reality to theater for young audiences to dealing with alcoholism. Several talks stood out from the rest, as being notably moving or enlightening. Professor Blanche Boyd of the English Department delivered a talk titled “Booze and Me,” during which she relayed her experience of quitting drinking and drugs. Boyd recalled that upon achieving sobriety, a friend told her that she was “completely the same but completely different.” Her talk was real and grounding, as she shed light on some of the real issues associated with addiction to drugs and alcohol.
Boyd’s talk was not alone in its ability to raise awareness about an important issue. Shameesha Pryor ‘17 delivered a talk titled “Her Hip Hop Story: Black Hip Hop Feminism,” which demonstrated to the audience how black women in hip hop have taken a backseat to their male counterparts. Representations of black women in hip hop often create a narrative of objectification, one that Pryor wishes to see change in the near future.
Other speakers such as Gregory Maguire, author of the novel Wicked, and former head chef of Noma Dan Giusti, encouraged students with their words. Maguire spoke about the ability that fiction has to help people cope with real-life issues. “The consolation of the imaginary is not imaginary consolation.” Maguire recalled how throughout his life, he has found comfort in recognizing himself in fictional characters and having a place to escape to when the real world became too trying. He encouraged the audience to take advantage of the solace that fiction may offer.
Giusti too offered the audience several words of wisdom during his talk “All In.” He discussed his trajectory from his childhood to his leadership position at one of the best restaurants in the world. He began his talk by recalling his childhood aspiration of one day becoming a “corn muffin”. His talk maintained levity while also delivering important advice. He encouraged the audience to pursue their dreams and forget about a backup plan. Currently working in New London, Giusti walked away from his job at Noma to pursue his dream of putting professional chefs into public schools to change the way the next generation eats.
“Dare to Bend” ran smoothly, evidencing careful organization, with brilliant speakers and excellent catering. The audience was provided with food from Mystic Market, and those of age were invited to enjoy wine and cheese with the speakers upon the day’s conclusion. As a tradition at Conn, TEDx conferences will likely continue in the years to come. As long as people have ideas that they find worth sharing, TED will continue to be a viable forum. Congratulations are deserved by all who were involved.