By Jane Lai
More than 20 speakers took the stage declaring their takes on “Identity” as TEDxNavesink hosted its first Open Mic Night on Jan. 20.
Held at the Paramount Theatre on the Asbury Park Boardwalk, local talent representing a diverse potluck of disciplines vied for a chance to speak at the TEDxNavesink IDENTITY conference in May.
Nearly 300 people filled the stage of the theatre on a Friday night and were treated to talks and performances on race, gender, technology, psychology, education and other topics.
“I am a woman, and I was born Arab. I am Muslim, I am Latina, and I am an American, and I am a writer. I’m soft-hearted, confident and awkward,” declared Jenan Matari during her talk on embracing your identities. “These are part of my identity, things that grow within us. An identity can change and changes based on who you meet. Check all the boxes that apply. I never fit into one box.”
Like how her personality traits filter into her diverse ethnic background, Jenan explained that identity is not a one-sized container, but rather one that is merged and grows continually with new experiences.
Youth development specialist Rodney Salomon spoke about how systems can shape identity and the need to change.
“We are going to evolve our system of indoctrination. I meant to say–education,” Rodney said. “We’re labeling more and more kids each day with ADD and ADHD, but as we come to realize, maybe there’s nothing wrong with these kids. Maybe it’s the system that’s nurturing and cultivating their minds.”
Rodney’s talk focused on how people must change so they can preserve their existence and live in harmony with others. Several of the changes he mentioned include altering diets, maintaining exercise and servicing the mind and body, all of which contribute to the environmental sustainability of our future, according to Rodney.
Eric Burdge, 25, who founded DRH furniture said: “I walked into a woodshop class one day and all of a sudden, my reality made sense.” He explained how his identity is wrapped around the pieces of art he crafts using wood.
At a young age, Eric’s struggle with academics opened a doorway to his dreams of becoming a craftsman.
“This passion I had found in the fifth grade grew in me. I knew I could do better,” he said.
Those were just some of the stories shared that night. There will be plenty more inspiring talks at TEDxNavesink IDENTITY on May 20. Purchase your tickets here for the event.
Want a preview of the talks? Get a behind-the-scenes look of speakers preparing their talks at our Open Rehearsal on March 2. Reserve a seat in the theater here.