TEDx, for the first time, is coming to Durham, and it features a compelling lineup of artists, poets, pediatricians and professors.
June 27, 2016
From Wearable Devices to Selfies, 20 Talks Represent Diversity of Durham at its First TEDx
Durham’s inaugural TEDx event is coming July 9 to Carolina Theatre, with a diversity of speakers and topics.
Speakers include Jess Jur, a professor in NC State’s College of Textiles, who’s leading a National Science Foundation-funded study on how fabrics can be integrated into wearable electronics. He’ll share the stage with Katja Hill of Arts & Health at Duke, who leads a journaling workshop at Duke University Hospital, Dasan Ahanu, a longtime spoken word performer who founded Durham’s Black Poetry Theatre, and Tarish Pipkins, who teaches kids how to express themselves through puppetry at Just Right Academy in Durham.
The goal of organizer Jack Derbyshire is to allow for speakers to share new ideas and how those ideas relate to Durham and its neighborhoods and people. He’s calling the event “Centers + Edges”—”Centers” represent certain passions the people of Durham share in their communities and “edges” are what specifically make those passions unique. It’s like being on the edge of a cliff, Derbyshire says. Though they can be uncomfortable, edges put centers into perspective, which allows room for growth and change.
TED, globally, provides a stage for speakers to voice ideas of all kinds at its annual conference. The nonprofit organization has stirred up conversations in and outside of the Internet since the first conference in 1984. In 2009, TED expanded to allow for regional conferences that are essentially miniature, local versions of the national event. These operate under the brand TEDx, where “x” stands for an independently organized TED event.
Most of the local universities have held TEDx events, some even annually. And TEDxRaleigh came back this spring after a three year hiatus.
Durham will now have a place under the TEDx platform with its first day-long conference. Starting at $30, tickets are on sale for the July 9 event at the Carolina Theatre downtown.
Derbyshire has plenty of experience organizing events. The Durham native spent three years as curator for TEDx at his alma mater UNC-Asheville. Working with TED has allowed him to recognize the value of good ideas, optimism and problem solving. He says that instead of dooming a problem, TED speakers talk about fixing it.
Last year, Derbyshire decided to bring that kind of enthusiasm to his hometown, where he moved to work for iD Tech Camps in 2014. While he still serves as an instructor and director there, he’s since taken a software engineering job at IBM.
In his spare time, he’s worked for the last six months with a team of curators to plan the event and secure speakers. They took a community approach to doing the work. The team asked 30-50 individuals who are especially plugged into Durham’s culture and happenings to make a list of interesting local people to present. From that list, the team interviewed about 200 people and chose just 20 to speak at the inaugural TEDxDurham.
Since they all come from vastly different backgrounds, each talk covers a specific niche. For instance, Duke literature professor Negar Mottahedeh is known for her published works in the fields of Middle Eastern studies and film studies. But at TEDxDurham, she will give a talk on the emotional and connective power of the selfie. Mottahedeh and the other presenters will express what gives an edge to the diverse range of subjects they represent.
The topics and speakers aren’t the only part of TEDxDurham that promotes diversity, though. Because Durham is such a diverse area, Derbyshire hopes each audience member will bring to the event a perspective that’s just as interesting as those they came to hear about.
“We’re going to blow away not just Durham, but the global community online with Durham’s ideas,” he adds.