Roxbury TED Talks takes place tonight at UMass Boston

December 6, 2013 11:50 AM

By Your Town

When Boston-based performer and poet Jamara “London Bridgez” Wakefield needs inspiration, she turns to TED Talks. Last year, she wanted to attend a TED conference but found the $10,000 pricetag prohibitive.

Instead of turning away from TED, a series of thought-provoking talks delivered around the world, she decided to do something about its cost. The result, in 2012, was the first TEDxRoxburyWomen talk. With the theme of “ideas worth spreading” in mind, the free event drew the TED-mandated 100 guest in just 48 hours.

This year’s event, Friday, Dec. 6, from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m, at the University of Massachusetts Boston, will mark the second of Wakefield’s series aimed at bringing together Roxbury women to talk about shared experiences and ways to improve. And, promises Wakefield, it will be bigger and better than last year.

“It is so easy to sit around and say that we want to do something or impact change in our community and then never reach out and build the allies necessary to make it happen,” Wakefield said. “This event gets us all in the same room and forces us to dream big and then create action plans towards grass roots community change.”

The second annual TEDxRoxburyWomen will delve into the topic of “Invented Here: Big Ideas by Local Women,” which will be interpreted a different ways by the five speakers. They are Tamika Mason, director of organization training at Year Up; Leah Gordon, a nurse practitioner doctoral candidate; Shirley Tang, an associate professor of American Studies at UMASS Boston; justice activist Natasha Vianna; and City Councilor-at-Large Ayanna Pressley.

Wakefield will also be presenting videos from the global TEDxWomen event in San Francisco from the day before.

Admission for Friday’s event is on a “pay what you think it’s worth” system. No one will be turned away for inability to pay, Wakefield said. However, space is limited to 100 guests maximum.

Leah Gordon, 38, of Roslindale, said she will speak about her experiences as a nurse practitioner. “My talk is going to be about my personal journey in life towards a career in nursing and combining it with my philosophy and mission in nursing,” Gordon said. “I’m going to share a personal experience that I went through in my youth that opened my eyes to being a nurse.”

Every day on the job, Gordon said, she notices the striking disparities found in health care for people of color. A nurse is the first person a patient sees, Gordon said, and that is why they should be educated not only in their practice but be culturally attentive.

“At the TEDxRoxbury event, people from all over the city are extending our voices and sharing our stories,” Gordon said. “We come from diverse socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds and we can bridge gaps and bring people together and not look at those divides but come together as a collective and feel like a fellowship. The event is really about connecting people through our stories.”

Vianna, 25 of Boston, also has the goal of prompting people to think more deeply about the importance of interpersonal relationships, Her topic will focus on the ideas of culture and shame.

“Our culture is programmed to accept shame and manipulation as a matter of course,” Vianna said. “That how we move forward in life, how we learn … is through the survival of shame. When I was 17, I became a teen mom. I was instantly ‘blamed’ for my teen pregnancy, disowned by my family, isolated from my peers, and shamed for my reproductive choices. In our current culture, the treatment I received and the experiences I endured made life more challenging. Being a teen mom in this culture means failing. But what if we questioned this culture of shame? What if being a teen mom didn’t have to mean I was destined for failure?”

Wakefield said the success of the first TEDxRoxburyWomen talk has inspired local non-profits in Roxbury and Dorchester to bring their ideas to life. One example of this is that the Roxbury YMCA and Brookview House, a local non-profit that helps homeless and at-risk families, created a coalition to host Roxbury Women’s Wellness Weekend, she said.

This event is a grassroots community led initiative to bring programming to the community. This year, the wellness weekend will be kicked-off by TEDxRoxburyWomen and continued into Saturday and Sunday with other events around Roxbury. Saturday will be various workshops at the Roxbury YMCA and Sunday is a three-course meal at Haley House Café to talk with other community members, share experiences and eat delicious food.

For a schedule of TEDxRoxburyWomen, visit

This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.

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