Our city is known as The Hostess City — our beautiful, and sometimes eerie, Spanish Moss intrigues many. Our colorful flowers and palm tree-lined streets are captivating.
Our Antebellum homes in the Historic District and our themed cultivated landscaped squares attract thousands of visitors each year. The recently added Plant Riverside District provides exciting venues for the young and the young at heart. Our myriad of restaurants along River Street (and beyond) offer tantalizing dishes that are guaranteed to satisfy every appetite.
Recent Maxine L. Bryant columns: Our youth need to learn about the Reconstruction era Black leaders that helped define Savannah
Black youth are thriving in Savannah: Here are 8 young people leading the way.
Also: We need to stop ‘polaroiding’ our Black youth with records. Let’s give them a path to dream
The Arts Center in City Market offers visitors and natives to experience authentic Gullah Geechee and Black arts and craft that are second to none. Yes, our city is enchanted with beauty, history and charm.
But, let it be known that we’re not just another pretty face — Savannah’s got talent!
Not just the artsy, music talent that we’re known for. We’ve got storytelling talent worthy of standing on the Red Circle and being part of the TEDTalk world of ideas worth spreading. Everyone loves a good story and TEDTalks provide a platform for persons to tell their story before a local face/face audience and indeed the entire world via the technology of YouTube videos.
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This year I had the awesome opportunity to be a TEDTalk Speaker in TEDxSavannah and chose to tell my story about the dangers of “polaroid camera-ing” formerly incarcerated persons.
TEDTalk is a media organization that posts YouTube videos under the slogan “Ideas worth spreading.” The original idea was to hold a conference that focused on technology, entertainment and design – thus the name TED. The first TEDTalk occurred in 1984 as a conference and has been held annually since 1990. The founders, Richard S. Wurman and Harry Marks, wanted to create a platform that would provide expert speakers an opportunity to share innovative ideas.
TEDx are local TEDTalks that are sanctioned by the larger organization. TED created TEDx to further expand the notion of “ideas worth spreading” by providing a platform that is specific to a local, geographic area. TEDx events are fully planned and coordinated independently by individual communities and follow the same process and format as TED. To maintain TED quality, TED approves all TEDx talks and monitors their processes. This ensures the integrity of the TED model.
TEDxSavannah has been in existence for 12 years. It started as TEDx Creative Coasts, and in 2016, evolved into TEDxSavannah. With Savannah being a historically Black majority city, it should come of no surprise that persons who identify as Black/African American have had the opportunity to share their “ideas worth spreading” every year.
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Indeed Black voices in Savannah have been heard loud and clear on the TED stage in Savannah. From the personal story of Weslyn Bowers about coming of age and making decisions regarding being right or righteous, to the informative and entertaining story from Nick Oji that encourages adult play, Blacks in Savannah have graced the TEDxSavannah stage and have enchanted audiences with their stories. Many shared their stories of growing up Black in the Lowcountry and Coastal Georgia, and throughout the Diaspora.
The list of Black TEDxSavannah speakers is extensive; so I’m sharing just a few. Take a listen to some of the stories and ideas shared by Black TEDxSavannah through the years.
Stories are reminiscent from the culture of the storyteller. The master percussionist, David Pleasant, proudly shared his Gullah Geechee roots with his rhythmic music and movement at the 2012 TEDxSavannah. Pleasant wowed the audience as he blended the past, present, and future and taught Gullah Geechee terms such as “binyah” and “keep on deydey.”
For centuries, Europeans desired to take the African drums away, but as is evident with Pleasant, they never took our music or our beat.
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Some Black speakers in 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 allow themselves to be defeated by the task at hand, not matter how difficult it is.
That’s a truth that continues to quietly motivate Blacks across the globe!
Many Black youth in poverty-stricken inner-city communities are forced to play a balancing act between a fictional society that tells them to dream and their traumatic reality which is a living nightmare. 2015 TEDxSavannah speaker, Carl Scott, shared his own experience and how it motivated him to be an inspirational interventionist specialist as he warns of the dangers of assumptions.
His fellow TEDxSavannah speaker that year, Roger Moss, shared lessons from his parents and encouraged the audience to “shine the light” on folks who are often considered less than deserving of having the spotlight.
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2017 TEDxSavannah speaker, Regina Bradley, boldly dared to talk about the raw, real relations between people who are Black and those who are white as she explored the value of hip hop to Blacks in the South. The next year, Matthew Raiford, a Gullah Geechee chef-farmer, helped his audience view life through his broad and colorful lens as he shared his family legacy of farming and cooking.
Want to gain an understanding of the stories told by the Civil War monuments in Georgia? Then the informational, eye-opening story by 2018 TEDxSavannah speaker Alicia Scott is a must-view as she unpacks the unusual stories of separation and hatred told by our monuments.
In 2019, Fayth Parks shares her personal love/hate relationship with Southern culture and draws listeners into her vision of a South that embraces human diversity; Jessica McBride holds fast to the dream that the South can and will rise beyond stereotypical images and begin to reflect the growing diversity of our nation, and Gullah Geechee Master Storyteller Patt Gunn teaches words from her native tongue and shares her experience of being a curious Gullah Geechee girl, a coming-of-age young adult, and a contemporary woman with a mission.
This year, six more talented Black people graced the TEDxSavannah stage to share their stories. Laugh with Mickie McNamara as she shares her life as the party girl, cry with Bertice Berry as she invites us into her healing journey, and feel the pain of Wanda Lloyd as she methodologically leads the audience down the path of the street called Words Matter.
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) talent. Experience our passions, share our cries and our joys, feel our love for what we do and know.
Celebrate Savannah’s voices: Savannah’s got talent!
Maxine L. Bryant, Ph.D., is a contributing lifestyles columnist. She is an assistant professor, Department of Criminal Justice & 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. See more columns by her at SavannahNow.com/lifestyle/
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