TEDx Savannah, Georgia showcases the city’s wealth of knowledge

Maxine L. Bryant

Our city is known as The Hostess City – our beautiful and sometimes strange Spanish moss intrigues many. Our colorful flowers and palm-lined streets are captivating.

Our Antebellum homes in the Historic District and our themed landscaped cultivated plazas attract thousands of visitors each year. The recently added Plant Riverside neighborhood offers exciting venues for young and old. Our myriad of restaurants along River Street (and beyond) offer mouth-watering dishes to satisfy any appetite.

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The City Market Arts Center offers visitors and locals the opportunity to experience authentic Gullah Geechee and Black arts and crafts that are second to none. Yes, our city is enchanted with beauty, history and charm.

Visitors stroll along the river in the Plant Riverside neighborhood.

But know that we’re not just another pretty face – Savannah has talent!

Not just the artistic and musical talent we are known for. We have storytelling talent worthy of being on the red circle and part of the world of TEDTalk ideas worth spreading. Everyone loves a good story and TEDTalks provides a platform for people to tell their story in front of face-to-face local audiences and even around the world via YouTube video technology.

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This year I had the amazing opportunity to be a TEDTalk speaker in TEDxSavannah and chose to tell my story about the dangers of the “polaroid camera” of formerly incarcerated people.

TEDTalk is a media organization that publishes YouTube videos under the slogan “Ideas Worth Spreading”. The original idea was to organize a conference focusing on technology, entertainment and design – hence the name TED. The first TEDTalk was held in 1984 as a conference and has been held annually since 1990. Founders Richard S. Wurman and Harry Marks wanted to create a platform that would give expert speakers the opportunity to share innovative ideas .

File photo by TedX Savannah

TEDx are local TEDTalks that are sanctioned by the largest organization. TED created TEDx to further expand the notion of “ideas worth spreading” by providing a platform specific to a local geographic area. TEDx events are entirely independently planned and coordinated by individual communities and follow the same process and format as TED. To maintain TED quality, TED approves all TEDx conferences and monitors their processes. This guarantees the integrity of the TED model.

TEDxSavannah has been around for 12 years. It started as TEDx Creative Coasts, and in 2016 it evolved into TEDxSavannah. With Savannah historically being a majority black city, it’s no surprise that people who identify as black/African American have had the opportunity to share their “ideas worth spreading” every year.

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Indeed, Savannah’s black voices were heard loud and clear on Savannah’s TED Stage. From Weslyn Bowers’ personal story of adulthood and making decisions about being right or right, to Nick Oji’s informative and entertaining story that encourages adult play, Blacks in Savannah has honored the TEDxSavannah stage and wowed audiences with their stories. Many shared their stories of growing up as black people in the Lowcountry and coastal Georgia, and throughout the diaspora.

The list of Black TEDxSavannah speakers is long; so I’m just sharing a few. Hear some of the stories and ideas shared by Black TEDxSavannah over the years.

The stories are reminiscent of the storyteller’s culture. Master percussionist, David Pleasant proudly shared his Gullah Geechee roots with his rhythmic music and movement at TEDxSavannah 2012. Pleasant wowed audiences as he blended past, present and future and taught Gullah Geechee terms such as “binyah” and “carry on deydey”.

For centuries, Europeans wanted to take away African drums, but as we see with Pleasant, they never took our music or our rhythm.

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Some black speakers at TEDxSavannah have roots in other parts of the African diaspora. In 2014, Somara Theodore, from Trinidad, shared her truth in her story of code-switching and the duality of being black in America. That same year, Ugochukwu Francis Okechukwu encouraged his listeners to make the impossible possible by refusing to be defeated by the task at hand, no matter how difficult.

It’s a truth that continues to quietly motivate black people around the world!

Many inner-city inner-city black youth are forced to play a balancing act between a fictional society that tells them to dream and their traumatic reality that is a living nightmare. 2015 TEDxSavannah speaker Carl Scott shared his own experience and how it motivated him to be an inspiring interventionist as he warns of the dangers of assumptions.

Fellow TEDxSavannah speaker that year, Roger Moss, shared lessons from his parents and encouraged audiences to “shed light” on people who are often seen as undeserving of the spotlight.

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2017 TEDxSavannah speaker Regina Bradley dared to speak boldly about raw and real black-white relationships as she explored the value of hip hop to black people in the South. The following year, Matthew Raiford, a Gullah Geechee chef-farmer, helped his audience see life through his broad and colorful lens by sharing his family heritage of farming and cooking.

Want to understand the stories told by Civil War monuments in Georgia? Next, the informative and eye-opening story of 2018 TEDxSavannah speaker Alicia Scott is a must-see as she unpacks the unusual stories of separation and hate told by our monuments.

In 2019, Fayth Parks shares her personal love/hate relationship with Southern culture and engages listeners in her vision of a South that embraces human diversity; Jessica McBride holds firmly to the dream that the South can and will move beyond stereotypical images and begin to reflect our nation’s growing diversity, and Gullah Geechee Master Storyteller Patt Gunn teaches words from her native language and shares her experience of being a Gullah curious Geechee girl, a young adult coming of age and a contemporary woman with a mission.

This year, six other talented black people graced the TEDxSavannah stage to share their stories. Laugh with Mickie McNamara as she shares her party girl life, cry with Bertice Berry as she invites us on her healing journey, and feel the pain of Wanda Lloyd as she methodically leads the public down the street path called Words Matter.

Maxine L. Bryant

Laugh, learn, sing, dance and live with us as we share our stories on the TEDxSavannah stage. We represent some of Savannah’s greatest (and often unsung) talents. Live our passions, share our cries and our joys, feel our love for what we do and know.

Celebrate the voices of Savannah: Savannah has talent!

Maxine L. Bryant, Ph.D., is a lifestyles columnist. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology; Director, Center for Africana Studies, and Director, Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Center at Georgia Southern University, Armstrong Campus.

Contact her at 912-344-3602 or email [email protected] See more columns from her at SavannahNow.com/lifestyle/

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