TEDxHarlem Conference Addresses Big Picture Solutions

By Jeff Mays on March 28, 2012 2:06pm 

Blitz the Ambassador closed the TEDxHarlem conference with a live band performing a combination of African music and hip-hop.
Blitz the Ambassador closed the TEDxHarlem conference with a live band performing a combination of African music and hip-hop.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

HARLEM — After changing the venue and reducing ticket prices to respond to charges of elitism, the inaugural TEDxHarlem conference went off as planned, founder Marcus Glover said at Riverside Church.

"This is one of the great labors of love and passion, which means you don't get paid," Glover said Tuesday night to close the conference.

Community activists had railed against the event, calling it "elitist" because of the $116 ticket price.

In response to the concerns, Glover moved Tuesday's conference — the local version of TED, a group of global conferences designed to generate ideas — from the Apollo Theater to a more affordable space at Riverside Church. A $20 general admission ticket was also created.

Conference attendee Lezlie Harrison said she felt the event was inclusive.

"Once I came in here it was about community. Everyone was very nice and very approachable," said Harrison.

Attendees heard 10 minute talks from speakers ranging from Tim Duggan, a landscape architect with Brad Pitt's Make it Right Foundation to BINA 48, a robot.

Duggan talked about how his group is using New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward as a model of how to create sustainable yet affordable homes. They are now exporting those ideas to places such as Newark, Kansas City and even internationally to Haiti.

"We are looking at the next 50 years instead of the past 50," Duggan said.

Conference attendees heard about topics ranging from global spirituality, presented by Pastor Michael Walrond Jr. of First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem, to Dr. Alim Muhammad, who discussed how the foods we eat affect us.

John Fetterman, the mayor of the once thriving steel town Braddock, Pa. talked about what he was working to revive town that was left for dead, by creatively rehabilitating and repurposing abandoned properties and trying to bring jobs and opportunities to the town.

"No community deserves to be abandoned and discarded," said Fetterman.

The event also had musical performances from Vy Higgensen and the cast of "Mama I Want to Sing."

"They have to perform. it's the magic of being seen and being heard," Higgensen said about her program, which works with young people.

Blitz the Ambassador closed the show with a live band performing a combination of African music and hip-hop.

"You couldn't have assembled a better crowd," said Sara Nerlove, a program director at the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C. "There were a lot of extremely talented and passionate people here."

 

Organizers said they hoped the conference would become an annual affair.

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