Each woman who stepped on the main stage at the Columbus Theater on April 9th, 2016 for TEDxProvidence spoke about something completely different from the next but the common theme to me was to uplift. From uplifting the women around you to the community as a whole to yourself. I left the theater that day motivated and proud to live in this city with these extraordinary women. The day started off with our own Sierra Barter, co-founder and CEO of The Lady Project. She spoke about the shine theory, which mean when I shine, we all shine. It is too easy to compare your own accomplishments to others. Living in this day and age when everyone is posting their highlight reel on every social media platform, we're quick to second guess ourselves. We forget that it's just that, a highlight reel. We don't know what is going on behind closed doors. We need to remember that we're all in this together and when one of us does well, we all do. And of course what is a Sierra speech without a few mentions of the Queen B herself, Beyonce.
PVD Lady Project member Kim Arcand is the visualization lead for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. Her talk was called "How do you hold a dead star?". She talked about her favorite star Cassiopeia A (or Cas A for short). Kim's love of Cas A made her driven to know more about it, which lead to her and her team eventually making a 3D model of Cas A that she could hold in her own hands. Admittedly I didn't understand most of what she said because science definitely wasn't my strong suit in school, but I really loved her talk because of the passion she had behind this one star and how it empowered her to keep learning more and to finally reach her goal of holding a dead star. I also loved that I ran into her leaving and she had the dead star in her purse.
Meg Sullivan is the executive artistic director of the Manton Avenue Project, an organization dedicated to nurturing the creative potential to the children of Olneyville. She understands the importance of children having that outlet to be creative since art programs are continually being cut out of schools. She had a number of young girls from the program come on stage to sing and perform monologues that they have written themselves. It's safe to say there were very few dry eyes in the house after this talk.
Yelitsa Jean-Charles is the founder and creative director of Healthy Roots, a line of natural hair dolls. This talk really hit home for me as I did "the big chop" (cutting off all your hair, or in my case shaving my head) last year because at the age of 32, I never saw what my natural hair looked like. Young girls of color don't get to see themselves in the toys sold at the store like their white counterparts. Out of 5000 children's books, only 8% feature people of color. Yelitsa's goal is to empower young girls of color to love the skin (and hair) that they're in.
Meghan Kallman is the co-founder of The Prison Op/Ed Project. She teaches sociology at the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institutions. Her talk really touched me because she understood that inmates have voices too and they deserved to be heard. Meghan wanted to uplift her students in a way that society never did. She gave them a chance and it's changing the lives of the students and writers she comes in contact with. She even brought on stage two of her former students who are out of jail and are reintegrating back into society. Again, not a dry eye in the house.
Lastly we had Janice O'Donnell, the former executive director at Providence Children’s Museum. She wants kids to get outside and play more. She noted that inmates have more free time outside than children do, which is only ten minutes a day while at school. She now directs Providence Play Corps which the Playworkers support and protect children's opportunities for self play. The playgrounds showed during her talk looked like so much that I wanted to play myself.