Did you know that there are 10 active TEDx events in our community? Eight are represented in the above picture from our first-ever Central Ohio curatorial team gathering. We are thrilled to support these and other TED-like initiatives in town, helping to connect more people to each other and to ideas worth spreading. For the first-time, we’re publishing (and updating) a comprehensive list of all the TEDx events around Ohio, particularly those in Central Ohio.
Note that we are quickly approaching the TED conference viewing events. And, we’ve set the date for TEDxColumbus 2016 for Friday, November 4th, so mark your calendars! Nominations for speakers will open in April. We’ll keep everyone updated through our digital channels.
The 2016 guide to TEDx events in Ohio
TED is broadcasting live its opening conference session to cinemas across the country. In Columbus, you can take in this event at one of 6 theaters: Easton, Lennox, Polaris,Crosswoods, Stoneridge, Pickerington or Georgesville. Find details and purchase tickets ($12.50) here. http://www.fathomevents.com/event/ted-2016-dream-live
Official local viewing site for several speaker sessions of of the 2016 TED Conference at Westminister Thurber, 645 Neil Avenue (Learning Center). No registration required. Come as you are!
1pm – 5pm
11am – 6pm
$15 – $30
This 5th Annual event driven by a large team of OSU students attracts nearly 1,500 attendees to Mershon Auditorium / Wexner Center and features faculty, staff, students and alums of OSU as speakers and performers.
$25/ Adults; $15/Students
A third-year event organized by students at New Albany High School at the McCoy Center for the Arts.
(Elementary with Cols City Schools)
Columbus Museum of Art
Curriculum based event for 3rd-6th graders in CCS
Whitehall City Schools / City of Whitehall
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to be notified of the event details.
by Alessandra Wollner
On Friday November 20th, 900 people (give or take) abandoned business as usual to sit in darkened theater and listen all day to stories of Disruption.
I’m referring, of course, to the seventh annual TEDxColumbus at the Riffe Center’s Capitol Theatre.
Sixteen speakers and performers took their place on the red dot to sing, paint or speak their way into something disruptive, in a good way. The program was divided into three parts: Disruption in Business, on the Streets, and in the Self.
The presenters were charming, authentic, poised and powerful by turn. The full playlist is here. To pique your interest, we’ll keep the recaps short and snappy. Six words short, in fact, to ride the momentum of Six in the City, a program that brings Six-Word Memoirs to cities across the U.S. as a tool for civic engagement that launched this year in Columbus at TEDxColumbusWomen.
So, sit back and enjoy some TEDxCbus bon bons. But don’t get too comfortable; the whole point of this year was disruption, remember?
Joe DeLoss Founder of Hot Chicken Takeover
HR can shorten the soup line.
Joshua Dalton Owner and Chef of Veritas Tavern
Fuck it—let’s smoke everything.
(He means food)
Cooking gives you five-sense knowledge.
Jeni Britton Bauer Founder of Jeni’s Ice Cream
Listeria leads to creativity and community.
Steve Locker Founder of Locker Soccer Academy and Author
Being patient will push kids forward.
Shawn Springs Former OSU & NFL player and founder of Windpact Inc.
Car seats yield football helmet innovation.
Eric Gnezda Songwriter and Host of Songs at the Center
Musical endeavors are best made together.
Yiem Sunbhanich Co-Founder and CEO of TNEDICCA
Basing navigation on safety, not speed.
Richard Guerrieri Forensic Scientist and Research Leader at Battelle
DNA sequencing: the gigantic genetic disruption.
Charles Noble, III Program Manager for Boys & Men of Color Initiatives at the Kirwan Institute
Transformational currency: what you leave behind.
Crystal Oertle Heroin Survivor and Storyteller
Disrupt shame by asking for help.
George Barrett Musician and CEO of Cardinal Health
Disturb your identity, find your path.
Stephanie Rond Street Artist and Founder of S.Dot Gallery
Make art that’s accessible to all.
Darrin Hoover Performance Artist and Spaceman & Alex Van Bibber Pianist, Sixth Grader, and Spaceman
Two giant steps for TEDx Columbus.
Daron Larson Mindfulness Educator
Avoid discomfort, miss opportunities for change.
Melissa Roshan Model and Speaker
Disrupt your downfall and forgive someone.
TEDxColumbus 2015 Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLsRNoUx8w3rO5QYZf8gwIzLCII2cM011O
Alessandra Wollner is a third year MFA candidate in creative nonfiction at OSU.
Dear TEDxColumbus 2015 Attendees:
Thank you for purchasing a ticket to TEDxColumbus on 11/20! We are thrilled you will be joining us. As the speakers finish preparing their talks, we also need one final preparation item from all of you.
For yourself and any of your guests, please pre-register here with this simple link. We only ask your name and email address.
If you have attended in the past you’ll know we are required by TED to capture the names and emails of all those individuals actually attending. You will receive a simple survey after the event which goes back to TED and the data is shared with us. If you are not pre-registered we will capture this information at check-in. You still will need your ticket for admission too.
Now, about the event itself!
Here’s the annual how-to-attend list. Please make sure to share it with your guests.
1. Parking: We recommend the Columbus Commons lot. And there is no parade this year to hinder traffic!
2. Lunch: Our tickets say noon, but in reality, everything will be ready by 11:30am so come early if you desire. Every dietary consideration has been made in the ordering of lunch.
3. Program: Doors will open to the theatre at 12:45pm and the program will begin promptly at 1pm. All seats are general admission.
4. First time attendees: Pay attention to the cards placed under the seats. Special prizes will be awarded for 2 participants in the “card exercise” during the third session. (Please bring a pen!)
5. Breaks/ Happy Hour: We’ll have 2 breaks with snacks and a Happy Hour with a cash bar and sushi from FUSIAN. So plan to stick around after the talks to get to know your fellow attendees.
6. Livestream: if you know people who want to see the talks live and in a place with other curious people, please direct them to Whitehall-Yearling High School which has graciously agreed to show the entire event from their newly renovated theater at 675 S. Yearling Road.
The livestream, for those unable to travel, will also be available on our website at www.tedxcolumbus.com.
7. Dress: As always, be comfortable and casual!
8. Social : Please use #tedxcbus in any posts on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter- before or after the event. We love the digital conversation but just not during the actual talks.
9. Tshirts: the official TEDx tshirt will be printed on demand in the lobby.
10. Did we miss anything?! Email us at email@example.com.
Can’t wait to see you all on Friday November 20! We know the speakers and presenters are even more excited. Come curious and ready to be provoked!
TEDxColumbus Organizing Team
by Kendra Hovey
If one event is a happening, two events are a coincidence, and three hints of a trend, what is five? Because five is the number of organizations in Columbus that have recently hosted an internal TEDx or TEDx-like event.
- Glimcher held a TED-like session inside their annual meeting.
- Alliance Data tapped into the TED format for a summit of their top 350 leaders, and then again at an internal conference for their Human Resources division.
- The BRUTx event at OSU’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science was everything TEDx except the name (and even that came close).
- Both Battelle and Cardinal Health are official TED license holders. Battelle has hosted two internal TEDx events. Cardinal Health, one. Both expect to host more in the future.
Four companies. One medical center. Plus TED now issues a specific license for inside events at corporations and institutions. It seems TEDxCorporate has become “a thing.”
From curation and coaching to licensing and volunteer coordination, TEDx is no small undertaking, and because of restrictions specific to the corporate TEDx license, talks cannot be shared publicly or used for marketing purposes. The benefits are strictly internal. Yet, more and more companies are adopting the platform. The motivation is the same as at any TED event: to share ideas. But the people at Battelle and Cardinal Health also talk about skill-building, creative outlets, fostering connections, inspiring collaboration, and energizing the workplace.
Plus, there’s something to the TED brand.
It connotes fun, fascination, and innovation—“distinguishing it from other types of events,” says Eileen Lehmann, director of internal communications at Cardinal Health. Lehmann co-organized her company’s event with Shelley Bird, executive vice president in the office of the CEO. Bird was inspired to pilot a TEDx for employees after attending TEDxColumbus. “Storytelling is critical to communicating ideas,” she says, “and the TEDx experience helped us to hone that skill internally.”
With 14 talks and performances and an audience of about 100, TEDxCardinalHealth was organized around the theme Plunge Pivot Pounce. Topics included brain surgery, data mining, and leadership, among others. Some talks shared personal journeys and crises; others highlighted employee talents. LaChandra Baker wowed her colleagues with a rap performance. A few months later, Baker took the stage again at TEDxColumbusWomen. Not the only way the event has legs, a video of one of the talks—on decision making—has become a staple in leadership meetings and, says Lehmann, “our CEO is now getting into the act.” George Barrett will be one of the speakers at Disruption: TEDxColumbus 2105 on November 20th.
Overall, reactions ranged from impressed to “life changing,” says Lehmann who herself was moved by the emotional impact it had, and also impressed, as she says, “by how smart and talented our employees are.” Some practical advice from Lehmann: Good video production and a great editor are key; rehearsal day is just as important as the event; and because it takes time for those unfamiliar with TEDx to catch on, an energetic group of volunteers will make all the difference.
At Battelle, TEDx has definitely caught on. Between their first event, Be Inspired, and their second, Breaking Through, attendance tripled, says Alexa Konstantinos, curator of both events. A scientist by training and now marketing director for medical business, Konstantinos, over her 20-year tenure, has seen the variety of “magic-making” at Battelle. “That may sound ridiculous,” she explains, “but the science and technology of the future is pretty magical.”
Looking for an outlet to share that magic within the Battelle community, TEDx was a perfect fit. Their talks tend towards the technological, she says, but what they all share is passion, and it’s not always a professional passion. At the most recent TEDxBattelle, one employee talked about his off-the-clock involvement in a science program for children, where kids as young as five are examining fossils and, those that find something new, get named on a scientific paper about the finding.
Other talks have focused on design in everyday life and predictive analytics in health care, meaning, in critical care situations, using data to predict what will happen to a person from a health standpoint in the next 12 to 24 hours.
Konstantinos says, “Curating TEDxBattelle has been an immensely rewarding experience personally.” As far as the value to Battelle, she echoes what others have said about TED’s unique format for idea-sharing and communication, but what really sets it apart, she says, is its democratic and grassroots character. These are two words not commonly associated with corporate culture or TED, which is often seen as elitist. Explains Konstantinos, “it is a group project, nothing is done in isolation, it is an interactive, collaborative, connecting kind of event.” A mixture of invited talks and open-call, it’s “inclusive,” she says, and, with an innovative bent, the content is “fresh.”
“If you do it right it’s grassroots,” she says, “and when it’s grassroots, it will be what people need it to be at that time—that’s the magic of TEDx.”
In a few weeks at TEDxColumbusWomen 2015 among other thoughtful speakers and performers, we’ll be showcasing the Inside/Out Choir, a joint project of the Tapestry Program, a therapeutic community at the Ohio Reformatory for Women, and The Harmony Project. While you may have seen them perform once or twice at other events, we wanted to help raise their voices even broader.
But two things happened recently which has led me to make a special, small appeal to our community.
First, we decided to host a tampon drive at the TEDx event on May 28th. The Free The Tampon campaign has been featured recently in the New York Times and the writer of those stories inspired us to have an actual drive, to bring the social awareness to a simple, actionable step. But we hadn’t yet decided the beneficiary.
Then I went to ORW to visit the women in the choir we will be showcasing. I remember hearing Orange is the New Black author Piper Kerman’s moth recording how she was given free tampons during her stay in prison. So during my visit, I asked Tanya, the woman sitting next to me, how she accessed sanitary products.
“Everyone gets free pads. But we have to pay for tampons,” she said.
I asked how much they were, not expecting the rapid response.
“They are $2.31 for a box of 10. And they are the cardboard applicator Tampax brand.”
She continued, “Most women don’t have a lot of family support. And the little money they make at their job isn’t enough to cover them.”
No matter how you feel about the crimes these women may have committed, I would hope you agree with me that they have the right to access the most basic of sanitary products, which in turn is access to basic human dignity.
When I asked the director of the Tapestry program if it would be acceptable to donate tampons. She said people donate goods all the time – but not often tampons.
The women of the Tapestry program who are also in the choir will be watching the livestream of our event. And we’ll be enjoying their song and talent without the chance to tell them thank you in person, like we will the other speakers.
So please help show our appreciation by bringing a box of tampons (or 2!) so that we may send the choir a very little gesture of appreciation in return. If you cannot attend and would like to contribute a box, you can have them delivered to RESOURCE/AMMIRATI, 343 North Front Street, Cols 43215 before May 27. And there’s nothing keeping you from dropping off any supply straight to the guard desk at ORW.
– Ruth Milligan
Please help us congratulate the following speakers and performers who have been selected to present at TEDxColumbusWomen: OWN IT – The Power in Our Story on Thursday, May 28th at the Southern Theatre. This spectacular lineup of all local talent will take the stage from 9am – noon, while we will stream the global TEDWomen conference from 2pm – 5pm after a picnic lunch for all attendees at Columbus Commons (weather permitting).
It is important to know that men are welcome to attend and as you can see, we’ve included a few in our lineup as speakers. Our world needs the full participation of women and their talents, and we recognize that men have a role in that process.
TEDxColumbusWomen 2015 speakers and performers:
Jennifer Adams, The Beauty of the Black Man
LaChandra Baker, Use that voice!
Liz Balk, Living in the Middle
Casey Brown, Valuing Ourselves
Melissa Crum, Educating on Racism through Art
Theresa Flores, Are we halting human trafficking?
Ladies of Longford, Performers
Lauren Kinsey, Breaking through the Tech Ceiling
Mark McNaughton, Through the eyes of my daughter
Inside/Out Choir, Performers
Amanda Scott, The challenge in owning your story
Larry Smith, A story in six
Natalie Spiert, Sexual Assault on Campus: Where it starts.
Joanne Ruthsatz, Connections between prodigies and autism
Erin Upchurch, Living in fear: Transwomen of Color
Biographies for all speakers can be found here.
Tickets are now on sale for $45/each (plus $3 theater restoration fee) by calling CAPA at 614-469-0939 or visiting ticketmaster (additional fees apply).
There is no ticket limit for this event but if you buy for a group, we will ask you to register your attendees the week before the event. You will receive a separate email with a registration request.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With gratitude to LeaderOPTICS, Carol Andreae, and OCLC for their generous partnership in helping to underwrite this event. And many thanks to the curatorial committee who helped to make the tough choices for the speakers and performers for this event. We are grateful to all of our supporters! As always, contact us (email@example.com) if you are interested in a partnership.
by Ruth Milligan
Within 24 hours of our initial announcement, our 2013 TEDxColumbusWomen event sold out. Albeit, the tickets were free, but we had a waiting list as long as the attendee list. The day of the event, the seats were filled. Struck by this enthusiastic response, I thought about other women-focused events that happen in town. Thinking about TEDx within this context, and certainly with no intention of criticizing these valued events, I find that they all have three things in common:
One, they are important events for THAT organization, in terms of raising money and delivering a message.
Two, they are short in nature without a lot of time to meet other people (go in, sit down, eat for 5 minutes, listen to a speaker, leave). Certainly some events have a networking period, but in my experience they are often short and that means most of us connect and “catch up” with those we already know.
And third, for table captains or members of the committee, the task is to “bring 10 friends.” Hmmm. I feel that on points 1 and 2 TEDxColumbusWomen offers something different and valued—information sharing that is not bounded by a particular cause, as well as time and opportunity to connect and make new connections. But, “bring 10 friends . . .” It’s not our policy, but it made me think about how it is we do bring people into the TEDxColumbus community, and whether or not we are inadvertently stuck inside our own inner circles. This began to bother me (more on that in a minute).
When TED announced TEDxWomen 2015 would be on May 28th, we knew we would host another local event and, this time, at a larger venue. The Columbus Foundation has been a lovely venue for the last 4 years, but it’s time to move to a theatre, so off to the Great Southern we go—where we can host more talks with a higher production value and, in turn, spread more ideas. (Note: the morning will be local talks, the afternoon a livestream from the global TEDxWomen).
But the part about diversity continued to nag at me. I decided it was time to be active about it, not passive. Here’s the thing: The purpose of our events are not to find new avenues to raise money. We raise just enough to cover costs—it’s in the TEDx bylines. And we don’t just want to spread the “message of TEDx,” nor are we interested in the “appearance” of diversity. We seek a deeper cross section of the community for more connection, sharing and engagement. Diversity of ideas and stories makes for a better event. Sharing those ideas and stories with a diverse audience makes for a better city.
So, if I asked 10 of my friends to bring 10 of their friends, how diverse would it really be? Have any one of those 100 people immigrated to America? Lived on minimum wage? Have any earned a PhD? Been a single mom (by choice)? Been to war? Are any CEOS of large-cap companies? Are any transgendered? Maybe, but unlikely.
So that’s where the Ambassador role enters the picture.
What if we invited people to help spread the word about TEDxColumbusWomen with one intent: Reach BEYOND your circles of influence. Invite acquaintances, once-met people, colleagues in other buildings, people from neighborhoods across town, churches across the street, parents you see only on drop-off at school, maybe whose names you don’t even know. As an ambassador, sure, go through your contacts and invite the 10 friends who recently invited you to a fundraiser, but the promise is to make a stretch and invite 10 that aren’t in your rolodex.
Then at the event during our picnic lunch, the hope is that these loosely connected acquaintances will meet and find deeper connection, learn something new about each other, and broaden their empathy and knowledge. Or maybe just attending the event itself and listening to the talks will achieve that goal.
The theme of TEDxColumbusWomen this year is OWN IT: The Power in Our Story. So while the curatorial team eagerly makes decisions about who will be on the stage presenting formal ideas, the Ambassadors will be eagerly working to assure those in the audience have come from every corner of our community. And the intersection of the two may produce 100 more ideas worth spreading.
To be an Ambassador, we ask that you attend one orientation session on April 17th at 9am. Facilitated by Suzanne Roberts, we’ll have a quick study in inherited privilege and how we can achieve far more as a collective, crossing boundaries and perceived barriers. To volunteer, email Morgan Howard at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you are wondering, we have some sponsors offering partial and full scholarships that the Ambassadors will be able to offer to individuals, to assure that economics is not a barrier to sharing and spreading good ideas. If an Ambassador wants to sponsor an attendee, that is welcome too, but is not expected.
Here’s to sharing and spreading great ideas from Columbus on May 28th! We look forward to seeing you there as a speaker, attendee, partner or Ambassador!
by Taylor Swope
I’m new to the world of TEDxColumbus, and after having the opportunity to participate in the day’s events on November 7th, I wish I weren’t just catching on now.
When I signed up to attend TEDxColumbus through my company Ologie, I knew (sort of, but not really) what I was getting into. I’ve never been one to seek out a TED Talk but I’ll always watch if one goes viral on my Facebook or Twitter feeds. It’s never been something I’ve put much time into investigating. (This blog is a funny place to admit such a truth, I know.)
I went into the day with some assumptions: I’d hear people talk about some cool stuff, maybe some weird stuff, and definitely some stuff I didn’t understand. I expected to receive random morsels of information that I’d either digest or ignore.
What I realize now is that TEDxColumbus is about creativity and community, and making each a tangible part of our day. Pre-event happenings like the Morning of Action give people even more opportunity to get creative while creating community—with strangers.
I had the opportunity to attend the Morning of Action, which like me is a newbie, added to the TEDxColumbus experience just this year. Event organizers partnered with Besa, a local nonprofit that helps people and companies match volunteer opportunities with their interests and skill sets. Volunteers met at the Columbus Commons to receive assignments and then dispersed via carpool, car2go, or Uber. (My group rode in style in Ologie’s minivan.)
We arrived at St. Stephen’s Community House and met Charlene, the volunteer coordinator and possibly the sweetest woman you’ll ever meet. (She’s a retired math teacher and accepted a position with the nonprofit after serving as a volunteer.) St. Stephen’s is dedicated to helping community members find resources while promoting self-sufficiency. They offer programs such as childcare, tutoring, and senior services, and they are always looking for volunteer assistance.
Charlene divided our group into different tasks: childcare, cleaning and donation-sorting. I washed folding chairs and assembled plastic wine glasses for an upcoming fundraiser in December. Other tasks finished before mine, and volunteers who I had just met that morning came looking for me to see if they could assist me with my work. Our minivan full of strangers created our own community that morning in the spirit of service.
Along with St Stephens, volunteers fanned out to the Broad Street Food Pantry, LifeCare Alliance, Community Computer Alliance, and Dress for Success, where, with a nice tie-in to this year’s TEDxColumbus theme, volunteers organized merchandise, assisted clients, and literally helped STEAM donated clothing.
In preparation for a day of learning through speaker passion, Morning of Action participants had the opportunity to learn about the important work being done in the community, and how through creative solutions to civic issues, lives are being impacted every day. Creativity combined with passion matters, and it’s alive and well in Columbus.
by Kendra Hovey
In yesterday’s post I asked Who is going to TEDxColumbus? only to conclude that with a willingness to meet and engage with others, we’ll have to all find out for ourselves. Just maybe, we’ll also find talent and commitment not only on stage, but off-stage, perhaps in the seat next to us.
I’m a four-time attendee and this has been my experience—and I’m an introvert. I’ll give you one example: Cathe. At the 2011 event, Cathe and I were two of six “strangers” randomly selected to sit around a table and have lunch together. While some attendees have loved this idea, others not so much. Our table had a great time, and Cathe is definitely a “pro-luncher.” As she told me recently, “I’ve now got these ideas that I’ve heard and then I’m going to sit with these people and were going to have a wild conversation about it. It’s fantastic. I just can’t believe how interesting it is…. We exchange cards … make a little contact and off it goes…. Honestly, to sit down and not try to convince anybody of anything, but just talk about what you just heard—we don’t do it that often.”
At that lunch Cathe and I exchanged cards, talked, and met-up again, and gradually I learned more about the work to which she has dedicated much of her life. It was about thirty-five years ago that Cathe witnessed a young friend’s descent into illness from an incurable brain tumor. Just weeks after her friend’s death, she read an article about hospice (a rather new idea in the U.S. at the time). She called the facility. The woman who interviewed her—who is still in the hospice movement today—told Cathe that she still had her own grieving to do and to call back in six months. She did, and has worked in hospice ever since—a journey that would take her to the far and open spaces of Africa and to the closer and closed spaces of the Ohio Reformatory for Women.
Hospice work is “doing whatever needs doing,” says Cathe. Maybe it’s talking, doing laundry, cleaning out a cat box; there was one woman who couldn’t eat anymore, “but she loved food,” say Cathe, “she would give me a list. I’d buy the ingredients and from her bed she would tell me how to make it. She just liked the smell of it in the house. Then her family would come over and eat it.”
Sometimes, what “needs doing” is just sitting, simply being there. “That was a terrific lesson for me,” she explains. “I was so sure I wasn’t valuable because there wasn’t any demonstrate-able thing going on. Now I know that is not the case.” Hospice volunteers are more than extra hands. “Illness is isolating,” she says, “hospice says to the patient and the family, the community hasn’t forgotten you, and when a patient dies we keep track of the family for a year…. How do you talk about that kind of care? How do we talk about it?”
Contemporary American culture does not have an easy time with language around death and dying. Cathe’s comfort and straightforwardness is refreshing. It’s also essential for good healthcare: “Hospice care is in essence a conversation. The patient is at the center, surrounded by family and a multi-interdisciplinary group of caregivers. Everyone talks to each other about what is best for that patient.” Not just hospice, it’s a model that would benefit all healthcare.
These elements of conversation and community are something Cathe experiences at TEDxColumbus. It’s why she now tries to attend every year: “I find it incredibly interesting that this is the same kind of thing that happens at TEDx. You put us in the center and all these ideas are spoked around us. With hospice, if you have a caring community and family, we support that. If you don’t have that, we help you create it. With TEDx, if you do or don’t have an intellectual community, we are going to create this community—and then we’re all going to share lunch out of a box!”
Cathe was introduced to TEDxColumbus through Janet Parrott, a 2011 speaker and also director of the film Song of the Soul. This film exists because of Cathe. Having heard about the expertise of hospice work in Africa, she began visiting and learning, and after a chance meeting with Parrott back at home, Cathe said to her, You get a film crew. We’ll go and I’ll show you what is going on in South Africa because it is really hopeful. These are wonderful people and we should tell their story. It was a spur-of-the-moment idea, but as Cathe recalls, “Poor Janet goes: Okay.”
It was a lot of work and a lot of travel. Cathe is grateful for the film and “extremely proud” that it is written, directed, produced and financed entirely in Columbus, Ohio. Her hope is that the film will build understanding about hospice, and also show the competence of the programs in Africa, and this one in South Africa particularly. “People go to Africa thinking we’re going to save them, we’re going to show them things, Africans know stuff,” she says incredulously, “they have a tremendous amount to teach us.”
Cathe is also involved in a Harmony Project program at the Ohio Reformatory for Women (ORW). The Harmony Project is about “connecting communities across social divides through art, education, and volunteerism,” and it’s about singing, lots of singing. But within that collection of voices are people of different backgrounds, with different needs and life circumstances and the collaboration between them and the gift they give to others with their voices is what makes the Harmony Project transformative, healing, kind of like good quality healthcare.
The program at ORW—one of many within the Harmony Project—offers an opportunity for those “serving a sentence to serve a purpose and be a part of the community.” These words are from founder and creative director David Brown, who also rather deftly points out that community is where these women will one day reintegrate. When Cathe learned of this program, she visited OWR and eventually helped arrange for the choir of female inmates to sing and perform over skype to the children at Joan Marston’s Sunflower House Hospice in Bloemfontein, South Africa. She happened to be there with the children, each one with a life-limiting disease, for the first skype. “It was magic,” she says.
Brown understands that women singing to children may sound like a small thing, but he knows that it has “wonder-working power.” At Sunflower House, when a child dies their name is placed on a sunflower and added to a wall full of other named-sunflowers. The women at OWR have created their own sunflower garden wall, and on each flower is the face of a child that they sing to at the Hospice House.
Hospice can sometimes refer to a building or facility, but always it is a healthcare practice and, as much as it is focused on death and dying, it is a philosophy of living. For me, this is a changed and deepened understanding, and it came by way of two strangers meeting at TEDxColumbus with an openness to talk and to listen.