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On Saturday I attended the TEDx speaker event at the Buell Theater, the main stage in our downtown Denver performing arts complex. It was beyond inspirational — I came out of it feeling like a slacker! Here are some of the incredibly powerful and moving speakers I heard:
Lisa Raville is the Executive Director of the Harm Reduction Action Center, a public health agency that works with people who inject drugs. Her experiences as an overnight homeless shelter coordinator, a County Supervisor campaign manager, and an AmeriCorps volunteer at an HIV/AIDS agency cultivated her activism. Her UNCOMMON idea was a passionate and sensible argument to have staffed, supervised injection sites at her Action Center (and around the country). She said the #1 cause of opiate overdose death is injecting alone — with no one to call 911, administer naxolone (Narcan®) or otherwise intervene. And, Lisa reminded us, a dead addict has no hope for recovery.
Physician P.J. Parmar is the son of Punjabi refugees. He founded Ardas Family Medicine, a for-profit private practice that since 2012 has served 10,000 resettled refugees on 50,000 clinic visits and Mango House, a home for refugees with activities and services that include dental care, food and clothing banks, churches, scout troops, and afterschool programs. His UNCOMMON practice is 97% Medicaid (which few private practice doctors are willing to allocate more than a handful of medical slots to), and because he only navigates one payment system, he has mastered it and billing is easy and lucrative. All patients are served on a walk-in basis, free of charge. No one is ever turned away. Those without Medicaid insurance are invited to pay as they are able.
William Woodward is a faculty member at the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence(CSPV) at the University of Colorado Boulder. He co-authored the Report on the Arapahoe High School Shooting and trains schools in the Safe Communities Safe Schools model developed by CSPV. Bill spoke eloquently about the school shooting dilemma and the concrete, logical, specific, actionable and entirely sensible Safe Communities Safe Schools program that, if adopted, would provide UNCOMMON early and ongoing intervention to identify kids at risk for peer violence and offer them compassionate assistance. This man is my new hero.
Sarah Werner Konradi is a landscape architect working at the intersection of design, conservation, and health. As Program Director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Early Childhood Health Outdoors program, Sarah works with underserved communities to re-envision outdoor spaces used by children and families, creating playgrounds that support child development and connection to the natural world. She delivered sobering statistics– the average inmate in a maximum-security prison spends more time outdoors every day than the average child; regular exposure to nature contributes significantly to healthy brain development in very young children; artificial playground environments that include plastic and metal apparatus but no grass, water, trees do not stimulate young minds. Her UNCOMMON solution: Natural playgrounds. Beautiful, organic, natural playgrounds. So inspiring!
I share an office wall with Duane Topping of Topping Design and I was completely thrilled (and frankly surprised) to see his name on the program. Duane is a relatively new neighbor, and I don’t know him other than to wave and say “hey” as we cross in the stairwell or parking lot or hallway. He’s a motorcycle riding, t-shirt wearing, long-haired, long-bearded, burly, tattooed fashion designer–quite a contrast from my former neighbor, a real estate agent who retired on his 80th birthday. In his talk I learned that, after 10 years in the military and multiple deployments, he had such severe PTSD that he taught himself to sew so that he could make wearable art. His UNCOMMON idea: “Clothes allow us to be who we want to be, to transcend the barriers placed around us. I want the people wearing my garments to follow my footsteps from the darkness into the light.” His talk was accompanied by about 30 models–some of whom were the very women for whom he designed the clothes–who represented liberation from trauma and darkness by wearing the fashion that helps them overcome their own wounds. Empowering does not begin to describe it.
Please, wherever in the country or world you live, see if there is a TEDx event in your area. Get VIP tickets if you can (it offers entry into a whole world of extra events, plus you get seated in front). I am overflowing with ideas, appreciation, respect and inspiration. And look up these folks on YouTube in a few weeks — I don’t know how long it takes to upload them — and experience them (and the other 9 speakers/performers) yourself.