Harlem, NEW YORK—Harlem’s creative class was at Riverside Church yesterday. Thelma Golden, Marcus Samuelsson and many other innovators from Uptown and beyond participated in “Creating Waves,” an inaugural TEDxHarlem event punctuated with artful moments and performances.
TED is a nonprofit that brings together the technology, entertainment and design worlds to share “ideas worth spreading.” Remarkable individuals from around the world take the stage at TED events and give insightful “talks,” or presentations, about their particular area of expertise. TED began holding conferences in 1984 and has become widely known in recent years through its online presence, offering a bounty of videos of its most riveting talks.
The independently organized Harlem event was an all day affair presented in four “movements”: The Global Future; The Application of Ideas; Innovation and Triumph; and Actionable Ideas.
Painter Anthony T. Morton was on stage during Marcus Samuelsson’s presentation, helping to create a Harlem street scene. When the talk began, his canvas was in progress and only included red paint. In less than 10 minutes he completed the multi-hued work.
Golden, the curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem who has been a leader in identifying and nurturing emerging black contemporary artists, spoke about the importance of the museum being both “in” Harlem and “of” Harlem. Samuelsson, chef/owner of Harlem’s popular Red Rooster restaurant, recreated a Harlem street scene that included a gospel singer, a breakdancer and painter Anthony T. Morton as a backdrop to his presentation, which related the neighborhood’s potential to its triumphs and challenges on the food front. Both were a part of the third movement in which presenters with big ideas explained “how they did it.”
All of the speakers were inspiring, informing the audience on a range of issues with compelling presentations. John Fetterman, the mayor of Braddock, Pa., shared the story of his downtrodden town outside of Pittsburgh, and the small victories he has won that signal the community has a chance to come to life again. Tim Duggan of Brad Pitt’s Make it Right Foundation explained how post-Katrina the organization has been able to build affordable, sustainable homes using contemporary designs in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward and how it plans to replicate the program in other U.S. cities. Kevin Carroll of Katalyst Consultancy emphasized the importance of play.
The local contributors, in particular, resonated with the audience. Their innovative ideas serve as models that could be replicated in other parts of the country and their talents sang. Beat box artist Taylor McFerrin (Bobby’s son), who teaches the musical technique at the LaVelle School for the Blind in The Bronx, gave a performance that sounded purely instrumental. Peggy Shepard of WE ACT talked about her groundbreaking environmental justice work in the city. Seth Andrew, founder of Democracy Prep, a network of New York schools, discussed its impressive academic record and college attendance rate. And Vy Higgensen brought the cast of “Mama, I Want to Sing”—Harlem teens she has trained in gospel vocals—to the stage for a rousing performance.
Photos by Arts Observer