TEDxAtlanta 2023: WE RISE Highlights

Last Friday 500 attendees opened their hearts and their minds for a day of learning, inspiration, community and celebration. Sixteen innovative ideas and four performances that raised our pulses and hearts were set free on the TEDxAtlanta 2023 stage.

Session 1: Back to Basics

The women of ConunDrums opened the show with Funga Alafia, a rousing West African folk song of welcome that got the audience’s blood pumping as they rose to their feet in dance and song.

The opening session explored the works of laryngologist Dr. Anthony Law and electrical engineer Omer Inan, respectively, to establish voice and joint sounds as new biomarkers of health. Both gave us fresh perspective on what the sounds that we make can tell us about our health.

Entrepreneurship researcher Susan Cohen offered fascinating insights into the co-making of advice between startup founders and mentors. Closing the session was filmmaker Rob Hardy’s journey of breaking negative intergenerational patterns to foster deeper father-son bonds.

Session 2: The Human Response

The second session celebrated the resilience of the human spirit and the innovations that are possible when we recast adversity as opportunities to improve the human condition.

Not only did award-winning jewelry designer Sydney Scherr not look away when she encountered two little girls in the child trafficking trade while on vacation, she developed the three ‘Vs” of vacation, volunteerism and vocational training as a novel approach to stemming the scourge of child re-trafficking. Isabel González Whitaker shared the spectrum of civic activities between voting and running for office that we could all engage in to uphold and protect our democracy. Anant Madabhushi shared his ground-breaking research that promises to revolutionize and democratize precision medicine in the field of cancer treatment and finally, Dr. Monisha Pujari offered a poignantly tender perspective on death.

Capping off the moving and sometimes emotional session was the mesmerizing performance by Indian classical music duo Amol Khanapurkar & Sai Ravisankar.

Session 3: Interplay

Non-obvious interdependencies and their impact on our lives and the world around us were the foci of Session 3.

Marine biologist Alistair Dove kicked off the session with a playful but insight glimpse of the world’s largest fish: The Whale Shark. His five lessons that human could learn from whale sharks were a crowd pleaser and his talk was met with an enthusiastic standing ovation.

Gerry Chen brought the next level in artist-robot collaboration to life with his invention GTGrafitti, a cable-based robot designed to enable muralists to unleash their creative vision free from the dangers of making large scale art. Staying with the concept of collaboration, Debra Lam shared her vision for solving the world’s most pressing problems: hyperlocal, community-centered collaboration. Finally, the audience gave a standing ovation to Joe Bankoff’s talk on the unintended consequences of gerrymandering, the threat to our democracy and community-centered voting districts.

Emerging hip hop talent JahWill Fannings closed out the session with a rousing performance of original music We Gotta Do Better.

Session 4: The Future of Us

The fourth and final session of the day, The Future of Us featured ideas both micro and macro to overcome the frustrations and loneliness that arise from of modern living.

Leading off was Andrew McConnell whose zero-based calendar concept as a means to retake ownership of our time and our minds resonated with the audience. Kris Braman’s ode to pollinator health reframed our perception of bees – from nuisance bugs to natural food diversity allies.

Moe Ari Brown and Tara Stoinski closed out the day of ideas. Therapist Moe Ari shared the importance of identity, acceptance and belonging through the lens of his personal transgender journey inspiring us to live our lives as our authentic selves. Primatologist Tara drew the uncanny parallels between gorillas and humans and the positive effects of strong social ties for both species underscoring the power of community regardless of species.

JahWill Fannings concluded the day with a two-song performance. First, a recap rap highlighting all of the speakers and encouraging the audience to participate chanting “together, we rise” and the dance along finale, “Jump” wherein he invited the TEDxAtlanta team and audience members to join him on stage.

X Zone

In addition to the fantastic line up, we were treated to a variety of interactive experiences during the conversation breaks between speaker sessions. These took place in the common areas at the Rialto Center for Arts which were collectively known as the X Zone.

If there was one takeaway from TEDxAtlanta 2023, it would be the power of community and togetherness. We are the future and with innovation, there is nothing that we can’t accomplish-as one community. Together, we truly rise.