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On Friday, November 16, 2018, fourteen Columbus area residents will become part of the TEDxColumbus community when they present their talks for On the Edge.


Meet the Speaker: Doug McCollough

Augmented reality & driverless cars … and the city of Dublin’s just getting started

by: Cheryl Forcina


The Columbus suburb has a growing reputation as a mecca for tech-driven businesses. And this “smart city’s” head innovation guy wants to make sure Dublin’s status stays that way.


In summer 2016, the debut of mobile game Pokemon Go brought location-based augmented reality to the masses.


Now imagine using that same technology as you navigate your way around Dublin, Ohio.


But instead of trying to capture Pikachu, Eevee and the hundreds of creatures that populate the Pokemon world, you’re simply on the hunt for lunch.


That’s just one of many uses for the digital wayfinding system set to hit Dublin’s Bridge Park neighborhood in the next few months, said Doug McCollough, the city of Dublin’s CIO.


“It’s like engaging with a concierge service—you’ll get that level of convenience,” McCollough explained. “You use your phone and animation to get directions by using a symbol versus a sign.”


McCollough heads up technological and digital initiatives for a city that a think tank ranked No. 7 in the world’s top intelligent communities in 2010—and its reputation as an innovator is only growing, thanks to other efforts, like the driverless cars being tested on a stretch of Route 33. Not bad for a suburb outside Silicon Valley. “(The city of Dublin) definitely serves as a benchmark,” McCollough said.


It was a detail the Michigan native couldn’t ignore when the city tapped him to be chief information officer in 2015. Of course, his grinding commute between Columbus where his family lives and his job at the time—in Virginia as the city of Richmond’s IT director—helped with his decision, too.


“We were waiting to all relocate (to Richmond), but Dublin called before I could find a home there for my family,” he recalled.


Along with McCollough’s experience and self-professed fascination with his field, the city of Dublin also gained an advocate. Particularly when it comes to casting the widest net possible in tech talent searches.


“One of the strongest dichotomies we have is the lack of diversity,” he said. “A lot of people don’t have access to these jobs or to promotion.”


McCollough points to black tech professionals. “If you’re African-American and entry level, you may be very alone,” he said. “Companies just don’t know how to support them.”


To that end, McCollough has lent his voice to issues like inclusion, workforce development and opportunities for women in technology.


“Companies should make diversity a priority, if for no other reason, than to give them a competitive edge,” he said. “These are companies that have huge amounts of money. They need to use the resources who are out there.”


The city of Dublin’s Chief Information Officer Doug McCollough has spoken on the topics of diversity, inclusion, career advancement and using technology for economic and community development. A graduate of the University of Toledo and the University of Notre Dame, McCollough is chair of the planning committee for the 2018 CIO Tomorrow Conference. His diverse passions include jazz (he was a trained musician), artificial intelligence, automation, bots and the social implications these technologies bring with them.





On Friday, November 16, 2018, fourteen Columbus area residents will become part of the TEDxColumbus community when they present their talks for On the Edge.


Meet Scott Woods:

Performer to showcase poetry inspired by social issues


by: Cheryl Forcina


The written word, performance art and activism have been connected for as long as there’s been social upheaval. And present day is no exception. A Columbus poet has continued that practice for years, and will share his experiences and work on stage.


Scott Woods knows what audiences want. And what they want, Woods claims, is a performance.


“Anytime someone is sharing a poem, it’s a performance,” the author said. “And somewhere in the back of the audience’s mind, that’s what they’re lookin for.”


Woods is well aware. In 2006, inside a Short North warehouse where cutting-edge Acme Art Co. once resided, he became the first to complete a 24-hour poetry reading—solo, and without repeating a single poem. Toward the home stretch, the crowd swelled, hoping to “watch the wreck,” Woods said, describing his own condition after such a long spell without food or coffee.


“By the time the end rolled around, I’d caught my third wind,” he joked.


Now long gone, the Acme Art Co.’s spirit of alternative mediums and activism made the gallery a perfect match for Woods’ feat and writings rooted in social justice. One issue he contends with: gentrification.


“Columbus has heaping amounts of (gentrification),” Woods said. “The city has developed itself to the point of cultural extinction.”


He points to Columbus’ South Side where he grew up. In a poem titled “The Livingston Avenue Suite,” from his 2016 anthology Urban Contemporary History Month, Woods remembers a street different than the one now undergoing development.


“I wanted to write a single poem that was as long as the street,” he explained. Like a walking tour, “the points of interest run east to west and pop up in the poem where they’re supposed to. These are lives; these are people; it was important for me to put it on record.”


Which is something the author has always done. “(Poetry has) always been something that was there,” he recalled. “I’ve always written it and it stuck.” Especially when Woods began giving open mic readings in his mid-20s.


Now 47, he thinks poetry’s broad reach—thanks to technology—is “a beautiful thing.” That audience has found Woods’ work in several books, on NPR, through a poetry series he co-founded and the nonprofit organization Poetry Slam, of which he was a former president, among other achievements.


But when it comes to his city’s own prospects, there’s one thing he hopes for most. “(Columbus) is still looking for an identity. I’d hope that one day, Columbus finds what it’s looking for,” Woods said. “I hope I’m alive to see it because what it has isn’t the answer.”


Scott Woods is a poet and author born in Louisiana and raised in Columbus, where he still resides. An accomplished writer and performer, Woods works at The Columbus Metropolitan Library and believes that libraries are “the second-greatest invention of mankind ever.” (The first, he says, is music.) He also is a horror movie buff and counts John Carpenter’s The Thing as a favorite.



On Friday, November 16, 2018, fourteen Columbus area residents will become part of the TEDxColumbus community when they present their talks for On the Edge.


Meet Ronald Murray:

Voguing demonstration will bring glimpse of house and ballroom culture to TEDx stage


By Wendy Cornett


This summer, producer Ryan Murphy’s FX drama Pose brought the underground house and ballroom scene to the surface and showcased an unprecedented number of transgender actors as series regulars. One of Columbus’ own curators of house and ballroom will share his perspective — along with a demonstration — of this vital, life-affirming culture.


Social worker Ronald G. Murray is also known to some as Father Ron “drama” Xclusive Lanvin. Since 1993, Murray has gone from active participant to respected leader in the house and ballroom community, which serves as a sanctuary for LGBTQ people of color who are ostracized by their birth families.


“This underground community existed because there were individuals who were rejected by their regular families because they came out as gay,” Murray explained. “They found commonalities among one another, and they started creating their own families, and they called these families ‘houses.’ Back then, you essentially stayed in the house with the people who were part of your family because you had no place else to go.”


At just 44, Murray is already preparing to assume the mantle of family elder to fill a void in the black gay population.


“In the black gay community, there aren’t many elders due to HIV/AIDS decimating an entire generation of our society,” he said, adding that few black gay men make it to their 50s. “One reason I stay involved in ballroom is that it allows me to connect with the younger generation and role model how to be a professional man.”


The family-like structures within the houses — complete with mother and father figures, sisters and brothers — provide, among other benefits, an atmosphere of inclusiveness and empowerment. Competitions (called balls) allow family members to express their truest selves in safe, supportive surroundings, while competing for prizes in different categories, one of which is voguing.


“Voguing became popular in the mainstream communities when Madonna created a song regarding it, but we’ve been voguing in our communities since the 1970s,” Murray noted.


To give the TEDx audience a live look at the energy and talent on display during a competition, Murray’s presentation will include a voguing demonstration courtesy of house and ballroom community participants.


Along the way, Murray will share his insights into the history and culture of house and ballroom, the uniqueness of it, and the importance of it for those who depend upon it for survival.


“Today, there are house and ballroom members who are doctors, lawyers, social workers,” he added. “We are writers; we are choreographers; and these are things that we wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for the ballroom community.”


Ronald G. Murray is a community leader with more than 15 years of training, education advocacy, counseling and social work experience beginning as a youth HIV/AIDS advocate consultant. He also is the founder and CEO of P.E.A.C.E. of Mind, LLC, a consulting agency that provides personal and professional development and education on the issues surrounding LGBTQ people of color.


Murray also has been an active participant and leader in the underground house and ballroom culture since 1993. He is committed to educating others about and advocating for this community as a safe and worthy conduit for local and national outreach, education, support and visibility. Additionally, Murray is a licensed social worker and chemical dependency counselor with a master’s degree in public administration. He lives in Columbus.


On Friday, November 16, 2018, fourteen Columbus area residents will become part of the TEDxColumbus community when they present their talks for On the Edge.


Meet Edith Espinal:

After a year in sanctuary, local, undocumented immigrant wants to ‘keep fighting for my family’


by: Cheryl Forcina


Last October, Edith Espinal entered the Columbus Mennonite Church in Columbus’ Clintonville neighborhood seeking refuge from the government’s deportation policies. A year later, the fight in her hasn’t waned; it’s only been strengthened by family, community and time.


When the kitchen inside the Columbus Mennonite Church isn’t already bubbling with activity, Edith Espinal uses it to cook for her family.


“My kids, they like anything I cook,” she said, a proud mom.


But it’s after dinner, during the quiet of weekend evenings when the family settles into the night’s movie, that truly transports Espinal outside the church’s four walls.


“When we’re watching movies, I’m not thinking I’m here in the church,” she said. “I feel like I’m home when my family is here.”


It’s been one year since Espinal’s new normal—as an undocumented immigrant living in the church-turned-sanctuary. Faced with deportation last fall amid headline-grabbing issues like ICE detainment practices and the government’s hardline stance on immigration, Espinal drew community support, particularly from the Clintonville church and its congregation.


“It was very difficult the first days or months,” she said of being in sanctuary. During this time, one of her sons endured surgery for appendicitis and—like any sick child—asked for his mother. “This scared me because I couldn’t stay with him,” she recalled. “I felt like I was going crazy because I didn’t know what was going on with my son. Any mom (would feel) like that.”


In the year that has followed, Espinal’s resolve has only intensified as she absorbs all the behind-the-scenes efforts toward her freedom.  “I’m learning every day … how to organize, do events and rallies,” Espinal continued. “I want to know, how’s my case? How can we organize better?”


All the while, the Columbus mom’s day-to-day—which includes morning visits from her daughter to help her youngest get ready for school—helps give the Espinals a semblance of, well … a normal routine.


In the meantime, her fight continues. And Espinal is nowhere near giving up. “I feel like I can do this; it’s made me strong, and the support of community has made me strong,” she said. “I know now where I’m going: to get legal status for me and my family.”


Edith Espinal had been living in Columbus with her husband and three children for 20 years before the threat of deportation led her to seek sanctuary in October 2017 at the Columbus Mennonite Church. She first came to the U.S. with her father as a 16-year-old trying to escape drug cartel violence on the streets of her native Mexico. Espinal later petitioned for asylum on behalf of her family; it was denied in 2015. Early last year, all her appeals were denied, and in August 2017, she was ordered to leave the country. She urges other undocumented immigrants to “keep fighting. If we don’t fight for ourselves, no one else will do it for us.” Get updates on Espinal’s continued fight against deportation on Facebook’s Solidarity With Edith Espinal page.


 On Friday, November 16, 2018, fourteen Columbus area residents will become part of the TEDxColumbus community when they present their talks for On the Edge.


Meet Liv Gjestvang:

Local parent shares an inspiring story of a growing family circle


By Wendy Cornett


Assisted reproduction can be an intensely personal and powerful experience. Sharing the gift of family with someone who needs help requires iron-clad mutual trust. One Columbus woman reveals her remarkable journey as both receiver and giver of the ultimate gift.


Three years ago, Liv Gjestvang took a monumental leap of faith. She had to trust the medical procedure that would lead to her conceiving a child; trust her body to do everything it was supposed to do to grow a healthy baby; and trust her own resolve to withstand – both physically and emotionally – that moment of separation, when the child she carried and delivered would go to live with another couple.


“Julie and I had already had two kids,” Liv shared, referring to her partner. “It was clear we didn’t want to raise another child, but I had really enjoyed being pregnant.”


Liv and Julie had welcomed their two children with the help of sperm donors – friends Mark and Erik, who had their two daughters with the help of a surrogate, Wen.


“I had been really touched by seeing Mark and Erik have their two girls and knowing that, Wen, helped them have a family because it was something that she believed in,” Liv recalled. “It was a really powerful thing for me to see what that looked like for her to be pregnant and give them the gift of family – twice. And it stuck with me.”


So when friends living in Amsterdam were ready to expand their family, the seed of inspiration that had been planted while watching Mark and Erik’s family grow was ready to surface.


“This was something that I had wanted to do for a really long time,” Liv said. “It was somewhat surprising to me the level of emotion it elicited in people I talked to. I could see it resonating – the power in being able to give a family to people who couldn’t do it on their own.”


While Liv’s desire to help another couple start a family grew organically out of her life experiences, the process itself was a journey through the unknown.


“There were moments when I remember feeling like I was going up that first hill on a roller coaster. I was pregnant. I was having a baby. This was going to happen. There was no getting off,” she said candidly. “The only way through this was to go all the way through it.”


Liv and Julie now share living, breathing bonds with two other couples who comprise their extended family. The unshakable trust that brought them together paved the way to profound joy and gratitude.


“This process has given us more than a baby,” Liv reflected. “It has expanded our family in a bigger way that I think we all truly value.”


Liv Gjestvang moved to Columbus from Brooklyn in 2002 and has spent her career working in education, technology and the arts. As Associate Vice President for Learning Technology at Ohio State, she leads educational technology initiatives, including the Affordable Learning Exchange and Digital Flagship. 


She has taught film and video at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Taos Talking Pictures and the Sundance Film Festival, and is founding director of Youth Video OUTreach, where she worked with gay and lesbian high school students to create the award-winning documentary 20 Straws: Growing Up Gay. 


Liv also is co-director of the Educause Learning Technology Leadership Institute and has written and presented about community media, social justice, college affordability and transformative leadership across the United States.


On Friday, November 16, 2018, fourteen Columbus area residents will become part of the TEDxColumbus community when they present their talks for On the Edge.


Meet Dave Ramsey:

Faithful TEDx fan gets best seat in the house!


By Wendy Cornett


For the past nine years, TEDxColumbus has featured boundary-pushing innovators and risk takers who have impacted the Columbus community and beyond. As the event marks its 10th anniversary, one TEDxColumbus devotee who has attended every year will take his turn on stage to share his own thought-provoking epiphany.



When TEDxColumbus launched in 2009, Dave Ramsey couldn’t buy his ticket fast enough. The developer and Workflow Data Systems founder had been captivated by some of the online videos from California’s wildly popular TED Talks, so the opportunity to witness the local incarnation live was a no-brainer.


“There was not a lot of hesitation there. ‘Oh, they’re doing one here? Great! Let’s go!’” Ramsey recalled of his enthusiastic reaction, noting that he didn’t even care who was speaking.


For idea junkies and consummate thinkers like Ramsey, TEDx events are like “brain holidays” chockfull of mind-expanding insights and conversation starters not found elsewhere. And being physically present adds a layer of connectedness that virtual viewing could never match.


“The personal connection of being in the room, in the space, while this person is telling a story of their triumph or the worst day of their life — that personal connection is huge, at least to me,” he said.


In addition to the energy a live show generates, Ramsey credits the diverse, carefully curated slate of speakers for making TEDxColumbus an overall transformative experience, and one that continues to shape his ideas going forward.


“It sculpts your experience pretty significantly if you’re cherry picking videos online,” Ramsey pointed out. “You can make sure that you never hear anything outside of the realm of what you’re looking for. I like the fact that my TEDxColumbus experience is not an echo chamber of everything that I’m listening to the rest of the year.”


And he’s quick to point out that, while it’s natural to jump to conclusions based upon the descriptions of the talks, those in the audience should be prepared to have their preconceived notions challenged.


“One lesson I learned is that the talks I’m least interested in from reading the program are often the talks that I think about for the next six months,” he said. “You can’t predict it. You can’t tell what’s going to reach out and grab you.”


Ramsey hopes to grab the attention of the audience when he shares one of his most profound realizations — a gem of an idea that germinated early on during his visits to TEDx and grew with each successive event. But to hear it, you’ll have to take Ramsey’s seat in the theater.


“I like sitting close to the stage,” Ramsey added. “I’ll get as close as I can get because the people are right there. It’s a completely different experience.”



Raised in Cincinnati, Ramsey moved to Columbus for Ohio State and has since put down roots in central Ohio. He founded Workflow Data Systems in 1998, a small software development consultancy, and remains a principal in that organization. In his 24 years in tech, he has written process automation systems, end-user business apps, mobile apps, VR games and tools for other developers.

Five years ago, he retired to work on passion projects, including developer tools, VR and Unity game development, designing board games and podcasting. His first board game design has been picked up by a publisher and should hit the market soon.

 He enjoys coding, mentoring junior developers and startups, playing board and video games, lounging with his dog, growing his beard … and attending TEDxColumbus events.




On Friday, November 16, 2018, fourteen Columbus area residents will become part of the TEDxColumbus community when they present their talks for On the Edge.


Meet Dr. Frederic Bertley:

Bringing science to where people ‘live, learn, lounge’


Outside of the classroom, visiting a science center like Columbus’ own COSI has long remained one of the only ways for non-scientists to get hands-on science experience. But what if science came to the people? One local leader aims to bring that experience to Ohio, promoting the idea that scientific exploration can happen anywhere for anybody.


by: Cheryl Forcina


In the early 17th century, English poet John Donne wrote “No Man Is An Island,” and one of the most quotable phrases in the English language was born. Four hundred years later, a version of the phrase exists as a catalyst for expanding the reach of a beloved Columbus institution: COSI.


“Believe in and build community,” said Dr. Frederic Bertley, offering his translation of Donne’s verse. It’s exactly what the COSI president and CEO hopes to do in the name of science.


It’s about “taking science and engineering out of its hallowed halls … and bringing it to the people,” Bertley said. “Where they live, learn and lounge.”


He had years of practice doing just that. Before leading COSI, Bertley was senior vice president and helped apply these democratic virtues to Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute—where a sample of programs reads like a sort of science-palooza lineup: the weeklong-plus Philadelphia Science Festival; The Color of Science, which highlights the scientific contributions of underrepresented groups; and the City Skies program, which promotes accessibility to the heavens anytime, anywhere, for anyone, and all without special equipment, among many other initiatives. Luckily, Bertley has plans to bring the same kinds of opportunities to COSI, Columbus—and beyond.


“This means a COSI that’s geographically independent and transcends age, gender or cultural identity,” he said.


Science was blind to age and cultural identity when it found Bertley at 9 years old through a football video game.


“It was Coleco Head to Head Football. Suffice it to say, it was a hard but rewarding lesson on the wonders of electricity. I’ve been curious ever since, and curiosity drives you to scientific exploration.”


Exploring beyond COSI and the region is what Bertley believes will transform “the COSI experience” and, in many ways, Columbus.


“How we continue to adapt, anticipate and create a vibrant 21st century city is key to (Columbus’) ever-expanding footprint,” he said.


Thanks to his successful initiatives at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Dr. Frederic Bertley landed the role of COSI president and CEO and began his leadership in January 2017. His vision for Columbus is to make COSI the epicenter for all things scientific. The Montreal native also is a lecturer and distinguished speaker, having been invited to speak at the United Nations, the White House and more. Bertley has a strong record in academia, studying physiology, mathematics and the history of science at Montreal’s McGill University, where he also obtained a Ph.D. in immunology. He followed it with a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School.



On Friday, November 16, 2018, fourteen Columbus area residents will become part of the TEDxColumbus community when they present their talks for On the Edge.


Meet Dr. Jianjie Ma:

Serendipity leads researcher to magical discovery


By Wendy Cornett


The medical community is no stranger to happy accidents. The discoveries of penicillin, pacemakers, X-rays and anesthesia were all unintentional outcomes that revolutionized medicine as we know it. One Columbus professor is on the cutting edge of converting another experimental fluke into what is quite possibly nothing short of a medical miracle.


“Pure serendipity” is how Dr. Jianjie Ma described his breakthrough discovery of a protein he dubbed “pixie dust” for its almost otherworldly abilities in the area of cell repair.


The OSU professor and his team of laboratory researchers were actually studying the physiology of how the heart muscle works under normal conditions when the protein, which circulates in the human body naturally, made itself known. Dr. Ma, passionate about his purpose, seized the opportunity to further investigate the finding and the potentially life-saving applications of concentrated quantities of the newly discovered protein.


His focused immersion in tangential discoveries is driven by his desire to, as he put it, “get into the deep” and uncover what is behind what we see every day.


“When serendipity comes, you have to have the passion to move to the next level,” he said. “Our goals as researchers are to impact our students and affect the next generation; to advance the biology of physiology; and where there is opportunity, we need to translate our findings into therapeutic applications.”


In other words, Dr. Ma leaves no stone unturned. The NIH-funded researcher has been prominently and widely published on the topics of muscle physiology, aging, cardiovascular disease, cystic fibrosis, apoptosis (cell death) and cancer biology. He has written hundreds of articles and holds 10 patents.


But perhaps the most impactful lesson he shares with the next generation at Ohio State regards something that is purely ethereal but curiously powerful – much like pixie dust.


“Whatever you want to be, whether you want to be an executive, an entrepreneur, a researcher or a physician, it takes passion. Do the extra work,” he insisted. “If you don’t have the passion, you will stop short.”


Dr. Ma is a professor and the Karl P. Klassen Chair of Thoracic Surgery at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Dr. Ma leads a multidisciplinary team of research in cardiovascular disease, muscle physiology, cancer biology and regenerative medicine. He discovered a gene that can repair membranes in the body, accelerating healing in patients with tissue damage. Dr. Ma serves as a study section member for the National Institutes of Health, holds multiple grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense, and has over 200 publications in scientific journals, including Nature, Science and Science Translational Medicine. He holds 10 patents and is founder of a university spin-off biotechnology company.


What to know more? Purchase tickets through Ticketmaster or by calling the CAPA Box Office at 614-469-0939.


On Friday, November 16, 2018, fourteen Columbus area residents will become part of the TEDxColumbus community when they present their talks for On the Edge.

Meet Ashton Colby:

Transgender entrepreneur, activist promotes positive body narrative


By Wendy Cornett


In a society über-obsessed with outward physical appearances, it’s easy for anyone to feel “less than” from time to time. For those in the transgender community, the struggle is magnified by a negative narrative that plays in their subconscious on an infinite loop.

Ashton Colby had to face – and embody – the diagnosis of gender dysphoria (GD) to get the help he needed from the medical community to live his life authentically. Although the diagnosis can grant access to insurance coverage and medical procedures, it also carries with it the emotional burden of being labeled as someone who is impaired or ill or suffering.


“As a trans person, you know you need surgery and hormones to look how you really feel on the inside. You have to get a letter from a psychiatrist to gain access to that. You have to prove to them that you have GD,” Colby explained. “You have to say things like, ‘I hate my body,’ to get the diagnosis, when it’s so much more nuanced than that. I just simply am transgender. There’s nothing broken that needs to be fixed.”


Colby’s transition from female pageant queen to transgender man is well documented through his popular YouTube channel, Beyond the Body, where he shares that the physical aspects of being transgender reflect just half the story. Beneath the surface lies an internal struggle fueled by existing in a state of “dysphoria” to justify the diagnosis.


“I started to internalize a narrative of hate based on what I needed to prove to doctors. I started to really believe those things,” he reflected. “If I can’t feel permission to feel joy with my body, then how can I experience joy in any other aspect of my life?”


Physical milestones – like building muscles – didn’t have the panacea affect he anticipated. Instead, he sensed a growing disconnect between his outward appearance and his emotional and spiritual fulfillment.


“By 2015 I had been presenting as a man for three and a half years. I reached a place where there was post-op depression,” he said. “I had facial hair and my chest was flat, but I wasn’t pursuing other surgeries. I hit a ‘what now?’ moment.”


Colby recognized that, in order to feel truly present in his new body, he needed to build mental, spiritual and emotional bridges; and he knew he wasn’t alone in his journey.


He will soon launch an online platform aimed at sharing powerful messages and information to help those in the transgender community reframe the narrative and align all aspects of their lives through gender expression.


“We’re not trying to fix something that’s broken,” he added. “We all have permission to experience joy and cultivate joy and appreciate our bodies and have a sense of love for our bodies throughout the whole process.”


Ashton Colby, 26, is a social entrepreneur, certified yoga teacher, YouTuber and writer from Columbus, Ohio.  He began his gender transition in 2012 and has since become a spiritual bridge-builder, reimagining the traditional media narratives of what it means to be transgender. He regularly speaks at high schools and universities. His story and YouTube channel, Beyond the Body, have been featured on, and many other media outlets. As a social entrepreneur, Ashton founded Gender YOUphoria, a movement that flips the script on the diagnosis of gender dysphoria. is set to launch later this year.


Want to know more? Purchase tickets through Ticketmaster or by calling the CAPA Box Office at 614-469-0939.


On Friday, November 16, 2018, fourteen Columbus area residents will become part of the TEDxColumbus community when they present their talks for On the Edge.

Meet LC Johnson:

Columbus’ women of color find their home away from home


By: Cheryl Forcina


Any newcomer to a city the size of Columbus would tell you this: Acclimation can be a challenge. And a newcomer who can’t seem to find faces that look like hers or women who share the same experiences? Well, she’d tell you that acclimating is even more challenging. She’d also tell you to create an environment where you find the sense of community you seek.


Real. Imperfect. Messy. These women live within the pages of Zora Neale Hurston’s early 20th century novels, which depict racial struggles in the anthropologist and author’s American South.


“These were women who drank, cursed, had sex, spoke in dialect,” said local writer and activist LC Johnson. “[Hurston] wrote at a time when people thought blacks didn’t have culture. She wrote of our humanity—we write, we paint, we create.”


If Hurston’s influence isn’t apparent when talking to Johnson about the author, then one look at Johnson’s co-working and community space should do the trick—it’s called Zora’s House. Its Summit Street location is a home away from home created for women of color. And like its namesake, it’s a pioneer of sorts as the first of its kind in Columbus. A business inspired by what its founder saw—or didn’t see—when she moved to Columbus from Durham, N.C., in 2015.


“I looked around [Columbus], and there were a lot of community spaces where I didn’t see anyone who looked like me,” Johnson recalled. “These spaces weren’t necessarily created with people like me in mind.”


So Johnson got curious. She began asking other people of color this simple, yet telling, question: Where do you feel most comfortable being completely yourself?


“They all answered, ‘at home,’” Johnson said. “So I thought, ‘How do we create safe spaces for women of color to fully express themselves?”


Described on its website as “part social club, part co-working studio, part workshop and event space,” Zora’s House is very much about community and the individual. Not a stretch by any means for Johnson, who’s also the director of leadership and social justice programs for the YWCA Columbus. Through Johnson’s work there, teenage girls learn that they can be agents of change. Young women develop the confidence needed as potential leaders. Programs like this exist for a reason, Johnson said.


“We think everyone has equal opportunity. But there are people on the edge, even if we don’t see them,” she said. “And because of their identity, we may be losing out on their talents.”


Which brings us back to Hurston, the author, whose work remained relatively obscure until the 1970s.


“[Hurston’s] work showed that we were worthy of consideration however you are,” Johnson said. “And that’s the spirit of Zora’s House—come as you are.”


Duke University alum LC Johnson is an award-winning writer, entrepreneur and activist with a passion for empowering women, particularly women of color. Her work on the topics of race and gender have appeared in Forbes Magazine, Huffington Post, Black Enterprise and more. Johnson lives in Columbus with her husband and son.


Want to know more? Purchase tickets through Ticketmaster or by calling the CAPA Box Office at 614-469-0939.