By Nick BeJeaux
TED Talks have a reputation for being potentially life changing – they cover broad, human topics that could apply to anywhere at anytime. But what if the Talks were given by people who grew up and live in your own city, and they talked specifically about your city – about you?
LSU’s Communication Across the Curriculum (CxC) program has gathered 15 speakers for its 2014 TEDx Talk to take place Saturday, March 29 from 1 to 5 pm at LSU’s Shaver Theatre, and all of them are from Baton Rouge, or studied at LSU. Rebecca Burdette is the Associate director for the ACC program and the event’s manager. She says TEDx Talks are more local – and accessible – versions of the widely respected TED Talks, which for many are only seen on Netflix or YouTube.
“The actual TED Talks happen only twice a year in expensive cities like Los Angeles or Dubai – not to mention the cheapest seats cost around $2,500,” she said. “TEDx is sort of like a licensed spin off. We love to host these talks because we think it is a tremendous way to help our students develop communication skills by showing them what real speaking skills look and sound like. Besides, LSU is an incubator of knowledge – what better place to host a TED Talk?”
This year’s TEDx is actually the second one hosted by LSU, and if all goes well, it won’t be the last.
“Last year’s theme was ‘Evolve’ – ways that we can move the community forward – and this year’s theme builds upon that,” said Burdette. “This year our theme is ‘Enact’ and our speakers will be talking about the practical side of the concepts discussed last year. We hope to keep these talks in a pattern of building off of one another – we actually already have a list going of themes for future talks.”
Choosing speakers was an “organic” process that, once put into motion, seemed to figure itself out.
“The process had to be somewhat unconventional and organic to uncover the gems hidden in our city,” said Burdette. “But there is a science to it. We put it out there that we needed speakers and people applied, but there were also people that we knew we wanted to host a talk.”
One of the people the CxC knew they wanted was Silky Slim Reed, the anti-violence activist who began his career as a drug dealer and gang banger at the age of 12 in Baton Rouge’s south side.
“Reed has a story, and a really meaningful one at that,” said Burdette. “He grew up around the North Gate area, which at the time was much more tumultuous. Violent crime is a huge problem for this city and Reed has a unique perspective on that subject. We want our talks to be informative, but we also want to give people a focus on stories as well.”
This year, one LSU student was given the chance to give a talk of her own. Psychology junior Courtney Brandabur was selected from many student applicants and will speak on her organization Girl Warrior and society’s struggle with personal image.
“A lot of my girlfriends, friends and family have issues with their body image and part of my work is helping them define beauty for themselves,” she said. “My talk will be based on self love as a foundation for women, which is something that our society seems to discourage.”
When she gives her talk, Brandabur will be speaking in front of her largest crowd ever. Needless to say, her emotions and expectations are running a little wild.
“I’m excited and petrified,” she said. “It can be easy to lose yourself in thinking about this as something to put on your resume – which actually makes this seem scarier. But when I think of it purely as an opportunity to share and teach women how to love themselves, that makes it easier and even exciting.”
This year the Shaver Theatre will be filled to capacity – 423 seats – and the show is already sold out. If you unfortunately missed this year’s TEDxLSU, look for the full recap in DIG’s April 2 issue, or (if you’re the patient sort) you can just wait until next year.