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2015 TEDxCharleston Conference Resonates With Forward-Thinking Audience
4/29/2015 4:23:00 PM

TEDxCharleston 2015 Speakers/Performers: Photo by Arielle Simmons

Seth G. on stage performing with his violin: Photo by Raheel Gauba

The Wona Womalan Drum Group: Photo by Alice Keeney Photography

Wona Womalan Drum Group's riveting dance set: Photo by Adam Chandler
By Damion Smalls

The Holy City’s third iteration of the ubiquitous TED Talks series furthered meaningful conversation among all walks of life at the interactive, independent convocation April 15 at the Charleston Music Hall.
The selected group of enterprising individuals tapped as speakers to this year’s TED Talk emitted a different vibe from the “Ripple Effect” trailblazers of the 2014 event. Throughout, the messages conveyed were more somber and urgent, possibly a potential symptom of the ongoing disunity within the city in the aftermath of the Walter Scott shooting.
Nevertheless, TEDxCharleston organizer and curator Edith Howle put together another top-notch production with help of a dedicated team of volunteers and a community full of endorsers. The theme of this year’s event was “Embrace Chaos”. Tickets sold out in less than 12 hours, making the 2014 benchmark of selling out in just less than a week seem ho-hum these days. It’s one of those “problems” that event planners dream of having when they’re not stressing over lighting.
TEDxCharleston is all about giving winning ideas a venue to flourish in the local community. Now a worldwide phenomenon, TEDx works to bring people together every day through communication and relationship building. It takes some progressive minds to accomplish those goals.
National Geographic photographer Vince Musi, a featured guest from TEDxCharleston 2014, served as the affable emcee. He introduced entrepreneur Riley Csernica started things as the first speaker to address the assembly.  The 24 year-old’s musings on pursing a life-long dream of being an inventor, which turned into a career in medical supplies, showed that the successful side of startups is well within the grasps of those with at least one good idea.
Sundar Balasubramanian, a radiation tumor researcher, followed Csernica in the spotlight on the stage as he spoke on the importance of Yoga-based breathing and relaxation on one’s mental and physical wellness. And artist Donna Hardy introduced the crowd to more information than most walked in the Music Hall that mid-April day knowing about the indigo plant and its uses as a natural blue, that’s for certain. Textile artist and Charleston Supported Art founder Kristy Bishop’s works adorned the stage with lush indigo backdrops.
Charleston’s own Seth G. entertained with his classic fusion melodies of such tunes as the Black Eyed Peas’ hit “I Gotta Feeling” and Jason Derulo’s “Ridin’ Solo”, all performed with a violin.  Gilliard’s renditions received a justifyingly exuberant response.  As did a video of Ron Finley from a previous TEDx with his frank, yet personable approach to inner-city gardening, which currently stands to benefit all parties involved over in South Central Los Angeles.
Political cartoonist Steve Stegelin followed with a lecture that explained how chaos in his field sometimes has fatal consequences, recently seen in the 2014 Charlie Hebdo office shootings. Healthcare advocate Nicholas Glover, Sr. highlighted the inefficiency of today’s care system and proposed a repaired relationship between doctors and patients with the help of technology. It’s good to see a venture capitalist such as Glover indicate explicit concern about an area that most can relate to and affects equally for the most part.
The packed house on 37 John Street was then treated to the aerobatic stylings of the Wonderson Duo with an elaborate set that reminded onlookers of just how aesthetically pleasing circus acts routinely are. MUSC science professor Harold May championed microbes as a future source of cheap energy after the aerial silks duo set.
A lunch over at Marion Square served as halftime of TEDxCharleston. Catered by Black Bean Co., the midday meal became a networking opportunity among ticketholders and speakers alike. Discussion corners were stationed around the tent that staved off the overcast afternoon. This also was the setting of the reception held after the program later that evening.
Back from the break, Ron and Dan from the Charleston-based New Music Collective unwittingly replicated sounds from the day’s weather with their soundtrack consisting of raindrops. It’s interesting how two happenings can clash so organically. Next up, Derek Snook, founder of “In Every Story” Labor Services, shared a heartwarming speech, believing that every great story needs an obstacle. His obstacle of living in a homeless shelter motivated him to help others by inserting himself into the prospective of those who are desperate for the chance to regroup and better their situations.
Designer Jenny Bevan spoke on the regressing standards of the structural integrity of modern buildings. Working in city architecture, Bevan pushed for a change towards preserving buildings by traditionalist guidelines, when constructions were made to last. An update on innovative Ebola treatments was the basis of the discourse given by Dr. Jeffery Deal, the Director of Health Studies at local non-profit Water Missions International. His UV light machine’s (TRU-D) ability to wipe out germs in contaminated room have has been qualified as ever valuable at several African treatment centers.
Businessman Earl Hewlette functioned as a prime example of how capitalizing from chaos can create….capital. The calculated purchase of Hurricane Hugo-ravaged Wild Dunes Resort helped parlay Hewlette into an award-winning whisky producer with Terresentia, a North Charleston distilling company.
Clinical psychologist and Trident Tech professor Nancy Simpson defied the odds on her ongoing journey to the truth about healing. Being institutionalized as a teenage for nine months established empathy for her clients that can be verified. App creator and College of Charleston student Will Jamieson testified to his prodigal ways in his time on the stage, explaining how he was building apps since the age of sixteen. His motto on challenging himself by learning from personal failures to act on turning his passions into a future fairly downplayed the need for “higher education” for certain, self-motivated individuals.
Director of the PTSD program at the VA Medical Center Dr. Peter Tuerk took pride in his role leading patients to face chaos head on while guiding them every step of the way. Specializing in psychology, Dr. Tuerk described his experience with treating veterans “amazing”. Communication catalyst John Zinsser works daily to contain chaos and managing conflict with three points: interests+intentions, investing in relationship, and focusing on the future.
Using “lucky is a lie” as a platform to fight complacency, JamieSue Goodman used her self-taught computer programming skills to launch the burgeoning Google CS First program in schools around the state. She stressed the need for greater diversity in technology among race and gender.
The Wona Womalan group brought the house down with their provocative West African drum and dance ensemble. The much appreciated energy they brought to their performance injected a celebratory mood in the Music Hall on a day filled with sad stories, hardships, and most of all, triumphs of the human spirit. Randy Dobbs compounded the sentiment with his optimistic attitude towards assisting his daughter, who is a pancreatic cancer survivor. Dobbs’ address proved wonderfully reminiscent of the 1993 ESPY Awards speech NCAA champion basketball coach Jimmy Valvano gave a mere two months before his eventual death from metastatic cancer. A powerful sentiment, indeed.
Check out for videos, more photos, and the continuing conversation stemming from this year’s gathering. Embracing chaos doesn’t have to be scary, but it is natural to try to avoid. Confronting the storm with intensity, integrity, and intelligence is what TEDx goers walked out striving to implement in their routines going forward. Don't be afraid to cause a little ruckus!

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