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TEDxTransformations at SnoIsle Libraries

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Merlin Quiggle
Speaker Radhika Dalal represented EdCC students at November's TEDxTransformations. Sno-Isle Libraries organized the event, held at the Edmonds Center for the Arts.

Speakers were received with tears and standing ovations as stories of inspiration and adversity took center stage at the annual TEDxSno-Isle Libraries event on November 18.

The presidential election left a discernible feeling of uncertainty in our community and in many others. The current social climate in our country seems ostensibly closed off. Relationships are more agitated and divided than ever before, with new shared ideas as few as they are well-met. But this was not the case in Edmonds, Washington.

On Friday, Nov. 18, the Edmonds Center for the Arts was filled to the brim with over 800 locals from all walks of life. Individuals, who came together willing to share and receive knowledge, sat among each other as a definitively unified and empowered community.

This year’s TEDx event, titled “Transformations” was once again free of charge and open to the public, drawing a massive attendance in-house, as well as a global audience of nearly 1,900 remote viewers.  Sno-Isle Libraries also streamed 13 live watch parties in the area, including a viewing event hosted by Edmonds Community College (EdCC) at the Black Box Theatre.

TEDx events are independently operated and locally curated. They typically consist of short-format live talks, performances, and demonstrations that are intricately designed to introduce new ideas.

TEDxTransformations’ overarching theme was awakening personal empowerment, and invited a diverse roster of community advocates, authors, entrepreneurs, educators, artists, and storytellers to share that message.

Throughout the entire event, palpable energy moved through the Edmonds Center for the Arts, creating a constantly engaging and personal experience that never once felt like a lecture. EDCC’s vice president Tonya Drake carried that energy on as the host of the mid-morning session.

The event made certain to hold several moments during the talks for the audience to interact with one another. What began as neighborly handshakes and hellos soon evolved into beach-ball bopping, networking and workshopping new year’s resolutions. These fun and genuine moments turned the event from a conference into something resembling more of a neighborhood block party.

Starting off the morning’s events was guest speaker and Edmonds Community College Running Start student Radhika Dalal. She offered her story of how by engaging with social media, younger generations are changing the definition of the American dream.

Following the opening performance by recording artist Xola Malik’s father-and-son rap duo, Dalal’s empowering message set the stage for 17 other talented speakers who carried out the day’s events with unforgettable gravity and passion.

After each session, guests were invited to reconvene in the “Idea Lab,” a lively exhibition floor filled with interactive workspaces that showcased resources provided by local innovators and career-oriented educators. Exhibits included a dress-up photo booth, a personality profile quiz station, a robotics construction table and a DIY commemorative tumbler machine that literally made a “boom.”

Twice during the event, speakers reconvened in the Idea Lab for salon-like panels, giving the audience the opportunity to ask questions and meet with speakers face-to-face.

When asked during a panel how students can succeed in the current adverse social climate, especially when dealing with the effects of polarization, several TEDx speakers offered their advice.

“What I could offer: Build community,” information technology specialist and University of Washington doctoral candidate Ivette Bayo Urban said. “By sharing my experiences, I found people in my corner moving me on that I couldn’t have imagined, and they helped me get to here.”

Author and public speaker Dawn Shaw returned to the message of her talk when she replied: “Confidence, respect, and resilience. Try and build a culture of respect for differences and valuing differences.”

Dalal also attributed her talk. “What I would say is, remember how each person is an individual who has their own definition of success, and to support each other on your way there.”

In an interview after the event, Dalal shared how the climate of the election season affected her life.

“My career aspects haven’t changed. I feel like if I’m passionate about something I’m still going to do it, regardless of what other people have to say or if they try and stop me.

“But in terms of regular daily life, I think things have changed, especially as a person of color, and coming from an immigrant family. When Trump was running for president, I almost felt this shame or fear when going out in my traditional clothing because I’d get these stares and these looks from people out in the parking lot.”

Dalal continued, “I just decided that I wasn’t going to live my life based on what other people had to think about me. There are people experiencing racism on a much greater level, but in terms of people who it’s affected I can say that I am affected.”

Speaker Seconde Nimenya related to Dalal’s feelings during her talk when she said, “When people think that different is bad for you, and you buy into it, before you know it you might start denying your own self worth and self identity.”

Nimenya welcomed the TEDx audience to the, “‘morning after’ the election season” when introducing her talk. She focused on how people are more alike than different, even in light of such polarization.

“Whether you are gay or straight, black or white, Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, democrat or republican, human beings at their very core are yearning for the same thing: To be accepted for who we are,” Nimenya said.

Dalal was asked about her feelings regarding the post-election climate at Edmonds Community College, and spoke on how students can come together.

“There’s no simple answer to bring people together who feel a certain way. What I’ve been trying to do following the election, and all of the negative tension that I’ve felt in some of my classes and in the community, is to try and look at the other side.

“Polarized media played a big role in this election, and I was following it too. Before, I would take the news sources that I got off my Facebook feed and believe those to be the truth. Following that I’ve realized that it’s filtered to support me, and intensify my views, as social media does.

“It intensifies your views in a specific direction, which is why we’re so polarized,” she added.

“We should be a little more open minded,” Dalal said. “Take a look at a person and their background, where they’ve come from, and how they’ve developed these views. Try and understand that the words that people say are an outward reflection of their life.

“That doesn’t mean you should support someone who is being hateful towards a group of people,” Dalal continued. “But acknowledge where they come from and have respectful discussion. That’s probably the best way to work towards bridging the gap between two sides right now.”

Edmonds Community College offers many resources to help students succeed. Getting involved on campus by joining a club or volunteering your time to an event or project is a great way to make connections and understand your fellow students.

Student organizations like Diversity Student Center and the Center for Student Engagement and Leadership can help you find a club or group that’s right for you, or give you a head start finding volunteer or service learning opportunities.

“I really appreciate the ‘community’ sense,” Dalal said of EdCC. “Everyone here is very approachable. In my classes, which are science and it’s normally a really competitive field, I’ve noticed that even the smartest people in the class who get the highest grades are willing to help you and want to bring you up with them.”

Seconde Nimenya closed her talk by discussing steps people can take to make their social environments after the election better.

“Number one: Start where you are, and where you have the most personal power to impact change. It could be in your home, your school, your community, or your workplace.

“Number two: Be brave. Be brave by having conversations that are sometimes uncomfortable. Race issues, for instance. In America, it’s an uncomfortable topic for many people. But it’s not going away just by ignoring it. Let’s have a conversation about race and seek understanding from one another, and heal each other.

And number three: Be flexible. Even if it’s something you don’t understand, or you don’t agree with, have an open mind, and learn what you don’t know.”

Hearing your community tell you they believe in you – and the message that you can empower your own potential – is something that everyone needs to experience. Each talk from the November Sno-Isle Library TEDxTransformations will be uploaded to the TEDx YouTube channel within the following weeks You can view the entirety of this year’s TEDx Talks by visiting www.sno-isle.org/tedx.

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