Last month I had the opportunity to visit Jacksonville and attend TEDxJacksonville 2014. The title of this post makes reference to the fact that I was one of six people in attendance, who have been to the past two and now all three TEDxes, that have occurred to-date in Jacksonville. Although the first, was the first and last incarnation of TEDx Avondale-Riverside.
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Each year the TEDxes have provided a great weekend excursion to Jacksonville but this year was certainly the most memorable yet. This was because of; the combination of speakers/presentations and the scale/professionalism of the event.
Perhaps not surprisingly the speaker/presentation that I have thought about post-TEDx, is the one I was most unsettled by and skeptical of, during TEDx.
In Pastor Michael T. Smith’s presentation about systemic racism, generational poverty and violence, he argued in essence for a boycott/divestiture of rap. He questioned why is it ok to praise/support a media/culture wherein “Black murder is normal“. From my perspective as a white boy who loves dirty rap, he threw down a moral challenge of sorts. At the same time, as I discussed with co-host Al Letson at one point, I felt Pastor Smith drew too simplistic a causal link between “rap culture” and “black violence“. I am skeptical as to whether, shrinking/negating “rap culture’s” place in society would solely fix the problems of systemic racism, generational poverty and violence.
There were two groupings of speakers/presentations that formed a core of sorts to the day. The first axis focused on issues of urbanism and civic engagement and included speakers such as;
- The local artist Chip Southworth spoke about his legal battles with JSO over “Keith Haring’s Ghost” and how they have led to a community-wide reappraisal/embrace of street art. Specifically, The Downtown Investment Authority led an effort to roll out “graffiti zones” (as part of an Urban Art Façade and Streetscape Program) and committed almost a half million $ to public art in the city.
- Ed McMahon of the ULI gave a presentation in which he argued the “image of a community is fundamental to (its) economic success” and urged the audience to embrace the unique not generic landscape. For the “scenic landscapes of Florida have quantifiable economic value“.
The second axis focused on issues identity and included speakers such as;
- Judi Herring who discussed DSD (differences in sex development), the intersex(ed) and the value of “unknowing gender“.
- Sara Gaver who challenged TEDxers to look beyond her physical disability (Arthrogryposis), to the other aspects of her self/life that define her.
As a final note, one thing that I loved from last year’s TEDx, that was missing this year, were specifically theatrical/performances. That being said, the opening and closing speakers/presentations (Warren Anderson on protecting and enhancing the “special places” of Northeast Florida and artist Aman Mojadidi’s exploration of the “geography of self” and his lifestory) featured elements of performative storytelling or monologue. Evoking at moments, through lighting, props, soundtrack or act(ions/ing), a more traditional stage performance.
The music this year was really good. I particularly enjoyed Joseph Shuck’s song about Jacksonville, JJ Grey (of Mofro fame) and the final blowout performance/encore, featuring all the musicians from the day; the aforementioned two, plus the John Carver Band and the “Sultry Sister of Soul” Mama Blue.
Night / brunch
The other really enjoyable part of the weekend was the evening, after the TEDx presentations. This year TEDx had their official AfterGlow Party not in the WJCT building, but in Metropolitan Park Pavillion on the riverside. Lots of great small-bites, drinks and mingling. Later the after-after-party, went to The Blind Rabbit (a newish whiskey/burger) in Riverside.
There we had some delicious food and I had a chance to chat with TEDx team member Mark McCombs about his work within the local school system developing robotics programs, as well as his fabrication work creating sculpture and machines. We also talked about the importance of mentors and mentoring.
* Ed. Note: There was recently a great Archinect discussion about mentoring
*2nd Ed. Note: Meant to complete this post sooner but you know…