This past Friday, May 19, the Jepson Center hosted the annual TEDxSavannah Talk. This year’s theme, “Bridge,” was interpreted in different ways by the fifteen selected speakers. Each speaker discussed their personal connection with the theme in thought-provoking monologues for roughly twenty minutes.
Doors opened at 8:30 a.m. and refreshments encouraged guests to mingle, starting the day’s goal of dialogue.
In between each set, the Master of Ceremonies, Wade Herring, transitioned from speaker to speaker with grace and humor. By day Herring practices law with HunterMaclean, but you would think he was a regular stand-up comic. Urging the audience to silence phones and “be present,” Herring jokingly threatened guests that if their phones went off during the discussions “a United Airlines flight crew would politely ask them to leave.”
The line-up included two of SCAD’s very own; Nick Oji, the assistant director of Student Involvement and Dr. Robin Williams, the chair of Architectural History.
Joining them, were other local individuals that serve prominent roles in the community or have shown exemplary success in their field:
— Quianna Lavant, Armstrong State University post-graduate
— Tonya Bonitatibus, Savannah Riverkeeper executive director
— Steve Riley, Hilton Head Island town manager
— Lt. Timothy McMillan, Garden City Police Department
— Courtney McNeil, chief curator of Telfair Museums Collections and Exhibitions
— Jessica Leavitt, editor
— Dr. Timothy Mantooth, educator, writer, life coach
— Stephen Lush, South Jackson Elementary School’s Garden-Based educator
— Ted Dennard, Savannah Bee Company’s founder and beekeeper
— Nipuna Ambanpola, IVolunteer International founder and chairman
— Phil Gore, Armostrong State University’s director of Military Education Outreach and Success
— J’miah Nabawi, performance storyteller
— Dr. Regina N. Bradley, Armstrong State University professor
One of the most noteworthy speakers was Lt. Timothy McMillian. In his presentation, he told the audience about ending a twelve-hour shift with the Garden City Police Department. Instead of driving home, McMillian decided to spend a few extra minutes on duty when he noticed a swerving car. After initially believing the driver to be drunk, the police officer was shocked to see a young African American male terrified in the drivers’ seat. He had been texting, but with the current tension between the black community and police officers, the young man was visibly afraid. It was this encounter that inspired McMillian to become an activist for social change.
Yet another great speech was given by Quianna Lavant, who discussed the disadvantages of growing up in poverty-stricken Albany, Georgia. A guidance counsellor had the audacity to discourage her from pursuing a higher education at a four year university, saying that a local technical school was more practical. With her grandmother’s constant encouragement, “Queen, keep your head held high,” Lavant decided to follow her heart.
Today, not only is she a first generation college student, but she is pursuing a Master’s degree and hopes that her story will teach us all that “everyone has a responsibility to inspire kids.”
After her speech, her teary-eyed grandmother in the third row stood up to a thunderous applause.
While the governing board of TEDxSavannah, Inspire Savannah Inc., hosts the event only once a year, they hope that eventually smaller “salons” could offer more frequent outlets for discussions. The board will soon begin the ten-month-long process of preparing for next year’s event: choosing a theme, writing press releases, and posting a call for speaker applications. Once the speakers are chosen, they will have a minimum of three dress rehearsals with a speaking coach. Needless to say, a lot goes into producing the event. That’s because with the parent organization, TED, high standards need to be maintained.
If interested in volunteering, speaking at next year’s event, or simply watching previous talks, visit TedxSavannah’s website. Make sure to grab tickets to the 2018 event as soon as possible, this year’s sold out in less than a week!