Yesterday, we went to Tedx Jamaica. This is an independently organized version of the Ted talks. Ted’s slogan is “Ideas worth spreading”. And there were some truly amazing ideas. In fact, I was sent back to my time studying political theory, to ponder the word “idea,” which is of Greek origin. We studied a lot of Plato, sometimes reading from the original Greek text and this word came up a lot. Its essential meaning is the concept or image created in one’s mind as a result of thinking. And of course, that’s what Plato was trying to do with his students, via the Socratic dialectic, forcing them to think independently, to push past the boundaries of where thought usually stops. Past the area in which there is simply accumulated information and previously established knowledge collected from the outside world.
But back to Tedx. It was an extremely well-organized event at the Courtleigh Auditorium, one of the corporate buildings. It ran mostly on time, with a delay due to a break for “light refreshments.” We watched several original and previously taped Ted talks, but they were interspersed with eight talks from people with Jamaican roots. They are confined to a 20-minute time period (which I appreciated- I must also say I am proud of myself for sitting for an entire day of speeches- this is a major challenge for me usually). I’m trying to piece together a theme for the day, but there didn’t seem to be one. Perhaps it would be to never give up.
Everybody was impressive. Here’s a bit about each, with the caveat that each person’s credentials are astonishing and too long to include in each description. I will just include something interesting about each that they shared with us during the talk:
John Robertson- a conductor, pianist and academic. He does not use sheet music to conduct- took a year to memorize his responsibilities for an entire Mahler symphony. He subscribes to the ADAM theory when approaching his work: Assessment, Discipline, Attitude and Maintenance.
Donna Duncan Scott- As a businessperson, she has won numerous awards for her time at Jamaican company JMMB. She also found her soul mate at 39 and now has two children.
Melvyn Tennant- A Brit who married a Jamaican and who lives on the beach, where he is literally saving an endangered species. Tennant’s project is to make sure sea turtles can safely repopulate themselves on his beach. The numbers show he is succeeding: when he moved there, 14 sea turtles lived on the beach, there are now close to 200. He also told us the most amazing fact: sea turtles go out to the ocean and drift for TWO years on the currents, from Jamaica, to South America and back up through the Caribbean again to the same beach where they hatched their eggs.
Felicia Hatcher- A business owner. She launched Feverish Ice Cream after running after an ice cream truck in heels and falling. She was a “C” student and almost gave up on the business after going broke but it is now successful to the point that the White House honoured her as one of the Top 100 Entrepreneurs under 30.
Shirley Thompson is the only female composer in Europe to score an entire symphony. She was commissioned by the Queen to write a piece called New Nation Rising: A 21st Century Symphony. It is a breathtaking piece, which I saw performed awhile back when the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra came to play here. She took us through her creative process, which I always love hearing about, how she created something from nothing, literally a blank piece of paper that was slowly filled with one note at a time. She also told us that growing up in London, racism prompted her teachers depressed her grades from As to Bs so that she would not be allowed to go to the “good” schools.
Donovan Bailey probably needs no description. He participated in a Q&A, in which he discussed what it took to be the fastest man in the world. He is now a successful businessman here in Jamaica.
Paul Ramphal is a groundbreaking cardiac surgeon. With a team from UWI, he is creating a device that can simulate a beating heart so that people can train on it. There is nothing like it in the world and it is all done here in Jamaica. I got into a long conversation afterwards with one of the team, who talked about the difficulty of commercializing such innovation, especially in Jamaica.
Garth Fagan. The crowd could not get enough of this choreographer. He created the Lion King stage show and has won numerous awards, including both a Tony and a Laurence Olivier Award. The best part of his speech occurred when he spoke about his strict father, who never saw the sense in his son being be a dancer. Towards the end of his father’s life, Fagan was able to show him the success of his career. He choked up when talking about this. This speech ended an inspiring day and I think lead many people to go forward with renewed energy.