Meet Rich: TEDxSacramento Team Member, Creative Soul, and Artist with a Passion for the Here and Now


Note from editor: As a regular blog series, members of the faithful and talented TEDxSacramento team will be profiled, offering them a platform for their ideas worth spreading. These individuals make the TEDxSacramento stage possible, allowing our community to meet, mingle, and share stories of ourselves and others, fostering a strong community foundation in an effort to make the upcoming year the best yet.

By Lauren Herman

Rich Beckermeyer, TEDxSacramento volunteer, in the production booth.

Rich Beckermeyer, TEDxSacramento volunteer, in the production booth.

Rich Beckermeyer, a member of the TEDxSacramento production team, is dedicated to art and the process of creativity - making the connection between reality and fantasy possible. He reminds us that reality is often more interesting than fantasy, and art is all around us. As a photographer, Rich aims to capture the story of everyday moments that are often overlooked and to capture his subjects' emotions in these moments. Perhaps that is why he is an ideal TEDxSacramento team member who inspires the unusual, the creative, and the power of ideas.

TEDxSacramento: Describe yourself in four words or less.

Rich: A documentarian of life. I seek to find stories and tell these stories.

TEDxSacramento: How long have you volunteered for TEDxSacramento, and what is your role at TEDxSacramento?

Rich: I have volunteered with TEDxSacramento for about 4 years as a member of the production team. It entails a variety of things, including shooting, producing, and editing the videos of the TEDxSacramento talks. My work is often well beyond that, but those are the primary tasks of the production team.

TEDxSacramento: Why do you volunteer with TEDxSacramento?

Rich Beckermeyer at TEDxSacramento "This Changes Everything: Seeds of Change" in September 2014.

Rich Beckermeyer at TEDxSacramento "This Changes Everything: Seeds of Change" in September 2014.

Rich: My motivation for volunteering with TEDxSacramento is connecting with other creative individuals and being part of the Sacramento community that understands creativity is an important part of the economy and artistic expression. I really wanted to start TEDx in Sacramento when I first moved here because I was inspired by the videos I watched during college. Then, I found out that one was already started, so I thought if I can’t start it then I should join it.

TEDxSacramento: What, in your opinion, is Sacramento's best-kept secret?

Rich: The best-kept secrets of the Sacramento region are its parks. I often go to Ancil Hoffman Park, River Bend Park, and American River Parkway. Nature has always been an integral part of myself, allowing me to recharge, re-energize by hiking through woods, finding a great spot on the river or climbing to the top of hills. These experiences are important because it is so different than where I am from where everything is linear -- flat that seems to go on forever.

TEDxSacramento: What is your favorite TEDxSacramento talk?

Rich: My favorite TEDxSacramento talk so far is Lisa Donchak’s talk “The game theory/ultra running connection” about ultra running – the sport of running 100 miles within 24 hours. The exercise aspect of it inspires me. She shows that a person is made of mind, body and spirit. You have to feed all three parts to be whole, so life without exercise is not balanced. The choice to continually push oneself to finish is an important lesson.

Lisa Donchak’s TEDxSacramento talk, “The game theory/ultra running connection”


TEDxSacramento: If you have the opportunity to speak on the TED stage, what would be your idea worth spreading?

Rich: Even though it has been talked about before, my idea worth spreading would be about creativity. Creativity can be found anywhere and used with all types of technology. Technology should be used as a tool to spread your creativity.

TEDxSacramento: How or where can others connect with you?

Rich: Twitter: @leland_beck and Instagram: @rb_visuals



This City is Made for You and Me: How Millennials are Taking a Stake in Sacramento’s Future

By Lauren Herman

We all have a type. My type includes tall buildings, close neighbors, espresso, museums, libraries, and open public spaces at my fingertips; yes, the city. Regardless of the demographic or geographic difference, the one constant in my life has been the city.


I studied disciplines that shaped my professional life in Berkeley, the first home I built for myself was in Nairobi, my first travels aboard were to Managua, and my first exposure to urban life was Saturday afternoons at the downtown Sacramento library. I incorporated these cities into my sense of self through the trust and intimacy I gained with the movements and the people each city offered me.

Urban life is becoming increasingly attractive to other millennials – a generation born between 1980 – 2000, totaling one fourth of Americans, who are (re)claiming an urban lifestyle as their “American Dream.” This generation is paving the way for the American urban century. Sometimes deemed the generation that has “failed to launch,” even millennials living at home say they envision the city as their ideal home. [i]

With millennials supposedly storming the urban landscape, what influence do they have on the city, if any? Where do they want to take our cities?


Looking to Millennials – Reimagining Our City for You and Me

As a catalyst for discussion around the upcoming TEDxSacramentoSalon, “This Changes Everything: City” conference on March 7, 2015, three millennials, all Sacramentans, will be profiled in a new blog series about their role in one of the following fields in Sacramento: community activism, education, and art.


The individuals featured in this blog series are engaged in these different fields, but all strive to make their vision of our capital city a reality. Their acts, their commitment to their passions, make them extraordinary contributors to our city. Though often criticized for being overly optimistic dreamers, millennials exemplify the power of young engagement just like the Baby Boomer hippies of the 1960s dreaming of a new world in a decade of societal and political disillusionment. It’s time for millennials to turn our world upside down.

Urban theorist, Marshall Berman, was correct when he wrote about modernity by eloquently borrowing the language of Karl Marx stating “...‘all that is solid’ in modern life...‘melts into air’.” All that we know today, what we know as modern, is continually reimagined, redefined, and reinvented by the upcoming generations that precede those of the past. [ii]

This blog series will explore the civic engagement of a generation that is proving the city we know today will be gone tomorrow as time transforms how we see, engage, build, and live in urban spaces, as it always has and always will be. It is our right as a society and residences to collectively exercise participation in these processes of urbanization, to enforce the freedom to make and remake our cities and ourselves.

Just as you have taken the time to explore the streets, the structures, and the smells of your capital city, now is the time to get to know Sacramento through the stories of your fellow Sacramentans. Only then will trust and intimacy of the city be discovered through your resolve to find what is essential and meaningful to you and your neighbors – our Sacramento will be built for you and me.


References for Blog Post:

[i] Gallagher, Leigh. The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream is Moving. New York, New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2013.

[ii] Berman, Marshall. All That is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity. New York, New York: Viking Penguin, 1988.


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How Girls Can Be and Are Their Own Superheroes

By Lauren Herman

John Marcotte may not be a woman or identify as a female, but he brought to the TEDxSacramento stage a unique perspective as a husband, brother, son, and father – all identities that are linked to and exist because of the females in his life. His story at the TEDxSacramentoSalon “This Changes Everything: WOMEN” began with two females very close to his heart: his daughters, Anya and Stella.

John Marcotte speaking on the TEDxSacramento stage at  "This Changes Everything: WOMEN" in December 2014.

John Marcotte speaking on the TEDxSacramento stage at "This Changes Everything: WOMEN" in December 2014.

John admits that, “...I am here because I am the father of two little girls, and it’s my job as a dad to try to make the world a slightly better place for them.” He goes on to confess that he is not only raising little girls, but superheroes!

Anya and Stella are the heroes of his talk, inspiring the creation of the organization, Heroic Girls, dedicated to empowering girls by advocating strong role models in alternative media. John founded this organization to breakdown gender roles in the comic book industry, specifically in its characters, for his daughters and all females daring to dream beyond what society dictates girls can and cannot do.

The organization’s mission says it all: “We want to get more girls and women involved in the creation and consumption of comic books as a tool to increase assertiveness and self-esteem, and to help them to dream big.”

But, what speaks most about the organization are its mascots – Anya and Stella. These young females are real life heroes dressed in capes and masks, who have become a huge sensation in the comic industry proving that girls can be superheroes. They may still be in elementary school, but they are world famous.


Superheroes Only For Boys? I think NOT!

There has been a recent surge in mass entertainment based on comic book characters – many of whom are female, including Wonder Woman, Hawk Girl, Spider Woman, Black Widow, and the current X-Men team that is currently an all full female team. Despite the participation of female superheroes in the storylines of movies and comic books, John questions, “Where do our kids get the idea that superheroes are just for boys?”

John Marcotte with his superhero daughters, Anya and Stella.

John Marcotte with his superhero daughters, Anya and Stella.

The concern for society’s narrow definition of femininity is described in a video made by John and his wife about their daughters’ quest for the action figure that mirrors their new idol – Gamora. Gamora is a female comic book character and recent star of the movie, Guardians of the Galaxy.

In the video, Anya and Stella travel to Target in search for the Gamora action figure. What they discover is a starkly different set of toys for boys and girls. They do not find their idol let alone any female comic book action figure other than Wonder Woman that is packaged and sold as a set with male comic book characters. Their journey ends with two disappointed superheroes left dazed and confused, unable to complete their mission.

This creative illustration of the gender gap in the comic and toy industry is filled with humor, but also concern around narrowly defined gender roles regarding what is “appropriate” for girls’ toys and boys’ toys. In fact, according to John, toys are more gender specific now than ever before. What John describes as “princess culture” still determines what the toy industry produces for girls, undercutting the potential of both girls and boys.


Surprising Facts from John’s Talk about Superheroes and the Toy Industry

Below are interesting research studies discussed in John’s talk. You may be surprised by these ideas worth spreading and by what you may or may not know about the toy industry and the power of superheroes.

-Toys are More Heavily Gendered Right Now Than Ever Before 

Postdoctoral scholar and lecturer in Sociology at the University of California, Davis, Elizabeth Sweet, found that toys are less gender neutral than ever before.

She writes, “...But while these toys [of today] may broaden the offerings within segregated toy aisles, they do nothing to challenge the underlying fact that the aisles are still segregated. And rather than busting stereotypes, such toys reinforce the idea that gender is the primary determinant of interests and skills.”

Dr. Sweet advocates making toys “gender inclusive,” and other organizations worldwide are pushing for such changes in product design and marketing as well. Let Toys Be Toys, a campaign designed to end gender categorization of toys, has successfully lobbied Toys"R"Us to end the labeling of toy aisles as either “boy toys” and “girl toys.”

By ending such gender categorizations, parents and the toy industry may learn that the interests of children are more diverse than originally thought, proving that Anya and Stella are not the only girls who prefer action figures to baby dolls.

-Even Barbie Dressed in Professional Attire Can Limit the Ambitions of Young Females

According to researchers at Oregon State University and the University of California, Santa Cruz, children can be greatly influenced by their toys.

In a recent study, researchers from these universities found that girls who played with the Mrs. Potato Head doll, compared to girls who played with Barbies, were more likely to foresee that they are capable of the same career opportunities as boys. Even if a girl in the study played with a “Career Barbie,” she was still less likely to see herself as capable of achieving the same occupations as boys. These girls were more likely to select traditional “female occupations,” such as a teacher or flight attendant, as their career ambitions.

One researcher described it as one of the first studies to explore whether, “...something about the type of doll, not characteristics of the participants, causes a difference in career aspirations.” This study gives us pause to how the (dis)empowerment of girls come from toys, and how these objects shape identities.

-Standing in a Superhero Pose for Two Minutes Can Boost Your Confidence

According to research by academics at Harvard Business School and Columbia, body language affects your mood and confidence. It was discovered that holding oneself in “power poses” (defined as expansive, open postures) results in empowerment.

Such poses have proven to change hormone levels, specifically increasing testosterone, resulting in increased dominate behaviors, and decreasing cortisol, resulting in decreased stress. Researchers reported that “ simply changing physical posture, an individual prepares his or her mental and physiological systems to endure difficult and stressful situations.” So, don’t be afraid to stand tall like a superhero because the benefits are “super-isingly” empowering!  


Lessons Learned from John, Anya, and Stella

Knowing all the facts, research, and data about the confines of societal gender norms, John reminds the audience why he is speaking on the TEDxSacramento stage.

John states, “...I am here because I need to tell my girls that there is nothing wrong if they like something that society says is for boys...All of us together have to show our kids that gender lines are not walls; they are meant to be crossed.” John is trying to empower not only his daughters, but everyone to live out who they want to be by explaining the limitations that gender based assumptions and labels can have on individual development.

Empowerment can be a tricky word that is thrown around without much explanation or definition. It has an assumed meaning by those who use it, and it is rarely questioned by people who hear it. But, does it actually have the same meaning to every person? I think not.

Anya and Stella are role models for us all by being who they want to be, not by being what others deem them to be; that’s their own form of empowerment. These girls may attend school by day, but by night and during the weekend, they are inspiring the world and their dad to continue in the tradition of girl empowerment through being the superheroes they want to be (and know they are).

Take John’s message to heart; ask yourself what form of empowerment allows you to be what and who you want to be? Let the superhero in all of us lead the way.


Interested in more speakers from the This Changes Everything: Women event? Then, read these posts also:

Sign up for the TEDxSacramento event list to receive a priority invitation to our next event!

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Announcing the Upcoming TEDxSacramentoSalon “This Changes Everything: City” on March 7, 2015

By Lauren Herman

Urban life is becoming increasingly attractive to Americans across the United States who are (re)claiming an urban lifestyle as their “American Dream.”

Cities are a practical, economical choice with smaller housing options and shorter commutes. After the recent recession and housing crash, a large chuck of America is squeezed by college or personal debt, often making mortgages and car loans unattainable. [i]

Cities are also appealing to both the young and the old as urban crime continues to decrease, urban schools and urban spaces continue to improve, and factories no longer occupy significant chunks of city land, polluting the city landscape. [ii]

At the same time, the suburbs are now home to high levels of poverty, unemployment, and abandoned housing – all characteristics of the city less than a century ago. Those who can afford it are fleeing the suburbs and its problems for the revitalization of urban utopia – a process some label as “yupification” and gentrification of urban America. [iii]

With the transformation of the American homeland, debates are emerging about how this will shape our future cities; Sacramento is no different.


The Redevelopment of Urban Space: How Sacramento is No Different

The majority of California, 95 percent of its residents, resides within urban areas making the golden state the most urban compared to any other state. It is no surprise that Sacramento, California’s capital city, is undergoing significant urban development.

Downtown Sacramento will transform over the next few years with the construction of the new entertainment and sports center, future home to the NBA team – the Sacramento Kings. With the influx of capital to fund this large construction project comes even more capital and development for its surrounding area, most recently the redevelopment of the 700 block of K Street.

This redevelopment of downtown Sacramento gives Sacramentans a platform for an ongoing discussion around civic engagement regarding the future of American cities. This resurgence of urban development across the United States and the (re)interest in American cities has and will continue to change its affordability, its use of space, and the opportunities offered to its residents and its citizens.

What stake do we as Sacramentans - the public, its residents, and its citizens - have in current and future plans of our city? The urban landscape shapes us, our memories, our identities, but how do we locate or insert ourselves in its transformations? What are the roles of its citizens, its residents, both present and future?


Announcing the Upcoming Conference: "This Changes Everything: City"

For the third TEDxSacramentoSalon in our “This Changes Everything” 2014/2015 series, we present to you: “This Changes Everything: City.” We will be bringing in thinkers and doers to share ideas and stories that are transforming life in the city and our role in it.

As the capital of one of the largest economies in the world and the largest state government in the world, Sacramento is uniquely positioned to be an idea catalyst for cities around the globe. We live here. We build here. We grow here. This city belongs to you and me. “This Changes Everything: City” is for people who give a damn. People like you.

Sign up for the TEDxSacramento event list to receive a priority invitation to this upcoming conference!

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References for Blog Post:

[i, ii] Chakrabarti, Vishaan. "America's Urban Future" New York Times. 16 April 2014. Online.

[iii] Gallagher, Leigh. The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream is Moving. New York, New York : Portfolio/Penguin, 2013.


To paragraph 2 under "The Redevelopment Of Urban Space: How Sacramento Is No Different": 800 block changed to 700 block. 01.29.2015.



From the TEDxSacramento Stage: Emily Graslie, the One and Only Chief Curiosity Correspondent, on the Value of Curiosity

By: Lauren Herman

Emily Graslie, Chief Curiosity Correspondent for the Field Museum, speaking on the TEDxSacramento stage.

Emily Graslie, Chief Curiosity Correspondent for the Field Museum, speaking on the TEDxSacramento stage.

On the TEDxSacramento stage, Emily Graslie treated Sacramento to humor and knowledge around the topic of women in the STEM fields - science, technology, engineering, and mathematics - engaging the audience about the value of curiosity.

No surprise in her delivery. Emily has a passion for speaking to audiences about the expansive world of natural history as a female vlogger and educator running The Brain Scoop – her own YouTube channel that helped to pave her way as the first and the world’s only Chief Curiosity Correspondent at the Field Museum in Chicago.

As a Chief Curiosity Correspondent, Emily makes interactive videos featuring the museum’s collections. The museum only exhibits one percent of its collection at any given time, so that’s where Emily takes charge allowing the public access to its massive wealth of knowledge that would otherwise go undiscovered.

Rather than explore how she obtained her current job, which is a popular question among her fans, Emily introduced her talk with one of the most watched episodes of The Brain Scoop focusing on sexism in the STEM fields. This video, featuring a sample of the sexist public comments that Emily receives, sparks discussion around women in the STEM fields introducing how sexism can seep into all fields undermining the work and curiosity of both women and men. Her message is simple; no matter male or female, we should all be curiosity seekers attempting to find and uphold the value of curiosity in our lives - a topic she expands upon in her TEDxSacramento talk. 


The Value of Curiosity

During her TEDxSacramento talk, Emily admits that one of the most valuable lessons of her job is that “...we are all inherently conduits and correspondents of curiosity.”  Holding this firm belief, Emily shared with the TEDxSacramento audience how curiosity was and is essential in the continuation of the museum as a public good and the preservation of natural history.

Emily prompted the question, “why do people go to museums? What were the reasons of the past, and what are the reasons of the present?" Emily proposes that there are individuals who go to museums for quality time with their family, individuals who go to museums because they feel obligated to go, and individuals who go to museums to seek answers to their questions and want a life changing experience. The latter describes a group of people Emily calls “the explorers.”

Emily advocates that every person should take on the role of the “explorer” and allow curiosity to lead us in our daily lives. Emily advises that the Wikipedia pages should not serve as our mode of knowledge; rather, knowledge should derive from our journeys of exploration within the museum - keeping it alive as a tradition to learn about our natural environment. 


The History of Natural History Museums

Emily Graslie speaking about the collections of the Field Museum on the TEDxSacramento stage.

Emily Graslie speaking about the collections of the Field Museum on the TEDxSacramento stage.

Museums have their roots in the Renaissance – the age of enlightenment. During this time, preservation of human remains and animal specimens was easier than ever before. Preservation and collecting became a fad among the rich and academics, who competed for the most shocking and puzzling collections.

As collections outgrew the storage capacity of its owners, profiteering from the curiosity of the public sparked the idea to put these collections on public display. The concept of public exhibitions eventually gave birth to the public museum - an institution we now trust will document, study, and preserve our history for current and our future generations.

Museums allow us to experience a world apart from our own without jumping on a plane or to immerse ourselves in an eco system that preserves the environment and species of a particular time and place.  Standing in front of exhibits and displays allows us to imagine the unimaginable and ask questions of yourself and the world around us; curiosity naturally emerges.


YOU Can Be a Curiosity Correspondent, too!

Emily explains, “That’s the thing about curiosity. You can’t be curious about something if you don’t know that it exists. That’s why we all ought to be chief curiosity correspondents. We need these story tellers of our natural environment...Technology is not what is answering our’s people who are answering these questions for us.”

Do you know any of these fascinating facts about our world? Here are some things Emily discusses that are worth exploring from the Field Museum to quench the thirst of the “explorer.” Imagine what else is out there!

Artifact: Allende Meteorite – a piece of a meteorite shower that lit up thousands of square miles of Northern Mexico and Southwestern United States in 1969. 

What You May Not Know (Surprising Fact):  It contains abundant chondrules and large Calcium-Aluminum-rich Inclusions (CAIs) that are among the oldest objects formed in the Solar System.

Shoebill - a rare species with no close relatives among living birds. Photo: Field Musuem.

Shoebill - a rare species with no close relatives among living birds. Photo: Field Musuem.

Artifact: Shoebill – large stork-like bird, named after its massive shoe-shaped bill, found in the swamps of central Africa. 

What You May Not Know (Surprising Fact):  If you saw this bird anywhere else, you would think it was a Muppet. It is an extremely unique bird with no close relatives among living birds. It looks unreal!

Artifact: Aztec Sun God Opal – a 35-Carat White Opal from Mexico, 16th Century.

What You May Not Know (Surprising Fact): The opal is carved into the shape of a human face. It is known as one of the most mysterious pieces in the Field’s Museum gem collection.

These are just a small fraction of what museums have to offer us – the unimaginable and unbelievable parts of our history that might have gone undiscovered and unknown. Imagine what else museums have to offer, and how our curiosity can be sparked by the questions and exploration of our natural history. If you have not seen her videos, Emily makes you want to learn more through her curiosity whether it’s the topic of women in the STEM fields, taxidermy, or rare mammals.

Once again, we owe Emily a thank you for delivering her wit and passion about natural history that motivates us all to reconsider the role of science and history in our lives. Are you up for the challenge to become a curiosity correspondent? The world awaits you!

Interested in more speakers from the This Changes Everything: Women event? Then, read these posts also:

Sign up for the TEDxSacramento event list to receive a priority invitation to our next event!



From the TEDxSacramento Stage: Amy Logan and Her Journey through Patriarchy of Today and Yesterday

By Lauren Herman


Like many researchers and authors, Amy Logan’s life work resulted from a life changing experience –- surviving domestic violence.

On the TEDxSacramento stage, Amy shared her journey of escaping a violent relationship that inspired her role as a researcher of gender-based violence, focusing on the origins of honor killing. It took her a decade of research before her personal journey of self-reflection and the stories of others were transformed into her book – The Seven Perfumes of Sacrifice.

Amy is not the first to speak about this subject. She joins several TED speakers, including Meera Vijayann and Jackson Katz, who shed light on gender-based violence. TEDxSacramento was pleased to welcome Amy to bring her own story of hope and self-discovery to add to the TEDx library.

Amy Logan on the TEDxSacramento stage.

Amy Logan on the TEDxSacramento stage.

Amy’s Story

Like many victims, Amy did not report or seek help for the abuse she experienced. What is unique about her story is that Amy transcended into what she called a “spiritual quest” researching the gender-based violence -- honor killing.

Amy describes honor killing as “the murder of a female, usually by a male relative, for immoral behavior that brings shame to the family... killing the women is what restores the family honor.”

It was during her time as a journalist in the Middle East that she first learned about honor killing. From there, Amy began researching honor killing “like [her] life depended on it.” She felt a connection to the women she met and read about through the shared experiences of physical and mental abuse -- commonalities among women across borders, languages, nationalities, and ethnicities. Amy estimates that 20,000 honor killings occur every year worldwide, including North America.

Without knowing it, her research evolved into a healing process allowing her to understand, spread knowledge, and find the roots of how gender-based violence in the form of honor killing became normalized worldwide.


The Origins of Honor Violence and the Conspiracy of Silence

Amy discovered that researching honor violence was more difficult than she thought. She found many barriers to discovering its origins – something she describes as a “conspiracy of silence.”

Amy Logan on the TEDxSacramento stage speaking about honor violence.

Amy Logan on the TEDxSacramento stage speaking about honor violence.

She explained to the TEDxSacramento audience that, “what I didn’t expect to find was that honor killing appears to be one of the lingering legacies of a pivotal time of transformation in human history that has largely been swept under the rug.”

This “transformation” was the extinction of the “divine feminine” in religious worship throughout the world. Over the last 200,000 years of Homo sapiens, god-worship dominated only in the last 5,000-7,000 years. Before that, goddess worship was the primary form of religion worldwide, even in parts of the world where honor killing is most prevalent.

Many scholars believe cultures that worship goddesses are more likely to hold the status of women in high regard, thus with the loss of the reverence toward goddesses, the role of women forever changed. The loss of women in spiritual positions of power subsequently led to the loss of power of women in other political and social affairs as well. Amy argues that honor killing became socially acceptable following these shifts in perceptions of the value of women.

It Has Not Always Been a Man’s World – Challenging Patriarchal Systems of Today and Yesterday

Amy estimates that nearly 800 million women are affected by honor violence, even more are affected by other forms of gender-based violence. It is Amy’s wish that everyone learn of the revered role of women worldwide that was once lost, but is now realized. It’s in this discovery that our ancestors inspire us to think beyond the world we know today and demand a world we know we deserve.

Expressions of patriarchy do not only come in the form of physical violence. May we look beyond our own assumed histories to find patterns and origins of patriarchy, whether physical, spiritual, mental, or emotional violence, in our own society. Patriarchy seeps from both personal relationships and institutions worldwide; the Untied States is no exception, where women (compared to men) are less often in positions of influence and decision-making.

Whether it’s hanging out with my girlfriends talking about wanting nose jobs to improve our physical appearance or smiling at a sexist remark made by a male co-worker rather than speaking my mind, I unknowingly subscribe to and enforce patriarchy in my society.

Being more conscious about how we interact and live in systems that put women at odds against their potential, simplifying them to subdued creatures of existence, is a start. Take a note from Amy; subscribe to your own form of civil disobedience against patriarchal systems that we assume have always and will always exist. Asking these questions will challenge us and prove that our present does not have to be our future.



Go For it!

By Lauren Herman

Editor’s Note: This blog post is the fifth of a five-part series profiling women leadership in the Sacramento region. It continues the theme of our December 2014 event, "This Changes Everything: WOMEN." These women were selected based on their contributions and participation in their community and industry. By means of this series, we hope to broaden our understanding of what constitutes a leader and provide a platform for ideas worth spreading. 


Debbie Manning: Law Enforcement Officer, Non-Profit Leader, and Advocate for Women

Debbie Manning is a Sacramentan, not only by birth, but because she has earned its respect from years of public service in the Capital Region. One of Debbie’s most recent “glass shattering” roles in our community is becoming the first woman and African American to serve as the California State Senate Chief Sergeant-at-Arms.

Debbie Manning, Sacramentan, Leader

Debbie Manning, Sacramentan, Leader

Her professional journey was not always easy. As those who distinguish themselves often do, Debbie often worked harder than her counterparts at the Office of the California Senate Sergeant-at-Arms. When she started at the Senate in 1977, the first women was elected to the California Senate the previous year. It was a time of change for the Capital.

Over the decades, the role of women in the Senate expanded by Debbie becoming the first female Sergeant to eventually becoming its Deputy Chief before her retirement.

Public service called her name once more when she came out of retirement to become the Chief Sergeant-at-Arms for the California State Senate in 2014. Debbie claimed her current high-level position as an opportunity to break barriers for other women in law enforcement, but also as an opportunity to return to something that she loves – public service.

She reflects back on her personal achievements as a benefit to her and current and future women in law enforcement. Debbie is also dedicated to the advancement of women in other professions through her role in Leadership California, a non-profit providing networking and support among women in California, serving on its Executive Advisory Council.

Debbie’s current work was never her dream job. She used to play hopscotch as a little girl staring at what she called “the wedding cake” building, but never knew the significance it would play in her life until after college. She reached for new heights throughout her career allowing her to work within the capital doors and to ensure the security of elected officials.

Her lesson for all of us is simple: go for it. If you don’t try, you will never know what you are capable of achieving. She knows this to be true after decades of reaching beyond what she thought she was capable of achieving. Failure is always a possibility in life, but it should never limit your direction.


The Interview: Debbie’s Ideas Worth Spreading

TEDxSacramento: Why did you choose your current career?

Debbie: The better question is why did I come back [out of retirement] after six years? I came back to work at the Capital because, at my core, I am a public servant. Public service is part of my life.

Since retirement, I have worked with international women’s groups through Leadership California [a non-profit dedicated to fostering relationships and networks between women in California]. I am inspired by the women leaders around the world whom I have met, many of whom experience harassment, but are still dedicated to serving as leaders.

When I was offered this leadership role [as Chief Sergeant-at-Arms], a position that no other woman has held, I jumped at the chance. How could I say no? I wanted to further my role as a woman leader, and I wanted to show that a woman can do this job. There are not many women in law enforcement, so I thought how important this opportunity is to promote females in law enforcement.

TEDxSacramento: What motivates you to push forward during difficult moments in your career?

Debbie: The fear of failure. As a woman in this field [law enforcement], I have pushed myself hard to make sure that the women who come after me have the same opportunities that I have. I want to make sure that opportunities for other women are open, rather than closed, because of me.

TEDxSacramento: What advice do you have for others in your field?

Debbie: Go for it! Women are rare in law enforcement, but the training and requirements are not insurmountable. Women are invaluable to the field. In my experience, women have the patience along with the ability to multitask and compromise to work through things that are necessary to be a successful law enforcement officer.

TEDxSacramento: Does anyone in your field inspire you? If so, who and why?

Debbie: There were no other women when I started working here [at the California State Senate Sergeant-at-Arms office]. But, there were many men in my field who helped me to see that I was capable of more than I thought I could do. My former boss [the former Chief Sergeant-at-Arms] gave me many opportunities where I gained the knowledge and experience to perform the job I currently hold. Today, I admire Michelle Obama and Hilary Clinton, who have forged their own voices. I strive to do the same.

TEDxSacramento: What do you like most about working in the Sacramento region?

Debbie: I am a native daughter to Sacramento. I grew up on 11th street where I played hopscotch while staring at what I called the wedding cake building [the State Capital]. I didn’t know what it was, so I never thought I would be here now. I grew up in a political family, a Republican household. My grandmother, the matriarch of the household, was an active Republican. I appreciate the involvement of Sacramentans in politics. I grew up talking about politics, so it is what I love about Sacramento.

TEDxSacramento: What is your favorite TED talk? How do the ideas of this talk impact your life? 

Debbie: My favorite TED Talk is Sheryl Sandberg’s famous talk, “Why we have too few women leaders.” Her talk was all over Facebook, so I decided to watch it. Being a little older then Sheryl Sandberg, I was not aware of the many assumptions we as women took as fact. She challenges our assumptions and why things are the way they are for women in the workforce. Her candid talk questions why there are not more women leaders resonated with me, especially being the only woman who has held my position [as the California Senate Chief Sergeant-at-Arms].

TEDxSacramento: If you could speak on the TED stage, what would be your idea worth spreading?

Debbie: I would talk about going for it. I would urge others, especially women, to not be afraid to try new things. You don’t have to know everything before you start a new job or position. We all learn things our own way; all you need to do is jump in and get working.

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TEDxSacramentoSalon “This Changes Everything: WOMEN” event Ends the Year with a Bang!

By Lauren Herman

The second sold out Salon event of TEDxSacramento 2014/2015 season, “This Changes Everything: WOMEN,” welcomed our community to the Crocker Art Museum on December 12, 2014. It was an afternoon of speakers and presentations contributing to the discussion around women daring enough to dream, daring enough to reimagine the way things are, and hopefully change the way we see things.

Artist Century Got Bars performs at the TEDxSacramento event on December 12, 2014. Photo by: Phil America.

Artist Century Got Bars performs at the TEDxSacramento event on December 12, 2014. Photo by: Phil America.

During TEDxSacramento’s six-year history, women and men have graced the stage to discuss how women contribute to our society and the world. During this event, speakers added to our knowledge of women’s role in natural history, the film industry, human rights, and comic books.

Emily Graslie brought humor and excitement around the field of natural history while discussing her journey as a female vlogger and first-ever Chief Curiosity Correspondent for The Field Museum in Chicago.

Researcher and human rights activist Amy Logan shared her transformative experiences of researching honor killing to influence how we and the world understand domestic violence.

Filmmaker Sarah Menzies shared the story behind her documentary, Afghan Cycles, which documented a group of female cyclists in Afghanistan, ultimately challenging how we perceive women in the developing world as change makers rather than victims.

From the perspective of a husband, brother, son, and father, John Marcotte brought to the stage the story of how his daughters inspired the creation of Heroic Girls, "an organization dedicated to empowering girls by advocating for strong role models in alternative media — particularly comics."

Sarah Menzies speaks at the TEDxSacramento event on December 12, 2014. Photo by: Phil America.

Sarah Menzies speaks at the TEDxSacramento event on December 12, 2014. Photo by: Phil America.

These amazing individuals are only a small sample of the diverse perspectives and experiences that TEDxSacamento is proud to bring the Sacramento community at its events. We hope to see you at the next TEDxSacramento event in 2015! Who knows what amazing speakers and stories we will hear from next?

Thank you to the following individuals for their performances at the "This Changes Everything: WOMEN" event: Century Got Bars, Emily Graslie, Amy Logan, John Marcotte, Sarah Menzies, and Parie Wood. The following TEDTalks were also featured: "Be an opportunity maker" by Kare Anderson, "If I should have a daughter..." by Sarah Kay, "Why thinking you're ugly is bad for you" by Meaghan Ramsey, and "Why we have too few women leaders" by Sheryl Sandberg.

Sign up for the TEDxSacramento event list to receive a priority invitation to our next event!



Science Reporter, YouTube Star, Vlogger, Artist (and Much More) Emily Graslie to Speak at TEDxSacramento

We are excited to announce Emily Graslie will speak at the upcoming TEDxSacramento event, “This Changes Everything: WOMEN,” on Friday, December 12, 2014.

Emily Graslie. Photo by: Serri Graslie.

Emily Graslie. Photo by: Serri Graslie.

About Emily Graslie

A few years ago, if you were to tell Emily Graslie that she would skin a wolf, smell the trees of Amazonia, or discuss pangolins (bet you never heard of this mammal) on camera as part of her job, she probably would not believe you.

Emily is currently serving as the Chief Curiosity Correspondent for The Field Museum in Chicago, showcasing its collection using short educational videos. How did she get this awesome and interesting gig?

Almost two years ago, Emily began hosting the educational YouTube channel, The Brain Scoop, a witty and fascinating show discussing the world of natural history. Her subject matter is influenced by her experiences sketching specimen and exhibits at museums as an art student. 

In July 2013, Emily and her show relocated to the Field Museum where she is now responsible for sparking public discussion and interest around its collection. It’s not just her endless access to material that make her one of the most interesting female scientists and vloggers on the web, but her curiosity and strong desire to share science with others.

Emily has many ideas worth spreading – reinventing how society consumes, understands and approaches science in a digital age, and showing through example that girls can rook the STEM fields -- science, technology, engineering and math. We can’t wait to hear about them! 

Never be caught ticketless for a TEDxSacramento event: Apply today for a priority invitation to our next event.



Filmmaker and Director Sarah Menzies to speak at TEDxSacramento

Sarah Menzies. Photographed by  Kristin Folsland Olsen . 

Sarah Menzies. Photographed by Kristin Folsland Olsen

It brings us great pleasure to announce that storyteller Sarah Menzies will speak at our sold out event, “This Changes Everything: Women,” on Friday, December 12, 2014.

As a young person, Sarah Menzies dreamed of venturing beyond her small town and discovering the world.

In 2010, that dream came true. Now Sarah is an acclaimed filmmaker and director who brings to life inspiring stories from around the globe.

Sarah has found one simple truth: Some of the most inspiring stories come from the most unexpected places. The only question now is this: Will Sarah find the story before the story finds her?

About Storyteller Sarah Menzies

Included in Sarah’s film credits, among others, are Catch It and the upcoming release, Afghan Cycles.

The documentary film, Afghan Cycles, tells a story of empowerment as it follows the lives of the women of the Afghan Women’s National Cycling Team as they face off against the cultural taboo of riding a bicycle.

The short documentary, Catch It, compels audiences to ‘live simply and follow your passions.’ It was an official selection at the Kendal Mountain Film Festival, the Ojai Film Festival, and the Festival Experience Outdoor Montpellier.

Never be caught ticketless for a TEDxSacramento event: Apply today for a priority invitation to our next event.



Home Is Where Your Story Begins

By Lauren Herman

Editor’s Note: This blog post is the fourth of a five-part series profiling women leadership in the Sacramento region. It serves as a prelude to our upcoming event, "This Changes Everything: WOMEN." These women were selected based on their contributions and participation in their community and industry. By means of this series, we hope to broaden our understanding of what constitutes a leader and provide a platform for ideas worth spreading. 


Danielle Vincent: Activist, Student, and Entrepreneur

Danielle Vincent, Sacramentan, Leader

Danielle Vincent, Sacramentan, Leader

Danielle Vincent may be the youngest woman leader to be featured in this blog series, but she already has a lifetime of experiences that come from her ability to balance her passion for fashion, business, education, and community outreach in her daily life.

While studying at Sacramento State University, Danielle operates Firefly, a midtown Sacramento clothing boutique, that was not only established as a creative outlet for Danielle, but also as a funding source for her community outreach organization, Shoes & Sandwiches (S&S).

To reach out to other entrepreneurs, Danielle recently expanded the walls of Firefly to house an entrepreneurial paradise called the “Midtown Collective.” The Midtown Collective houses four other small, locally owned businesses that give entrepreneurs a support network helping them grow and focus on their business without the financial burden of managing their own building.

Danielle is a millennial, a member of a generation trying to do it all while making a positive impact in their community. Originally from Orange County, Danielle has adopted Sacramento as her home by becoming an active citizen engaging with local politics, local issues and local business. Her goal is to contribute to Sacramento by making it a more creative, aware, kindhearted, and generous city.

She will not slow down any time soon. She has future plans for S&S – a voucher based clothing closet making it easier for low-income families to cloth their families, a mobile “pop-up shop” to reach low income families throughout the Sacramento region, and further street-level outreach for the homeless with community involvement.

Danielle puts it simply: “You can’t learn so much about something and walk away. That’s the trouble with knowledge. The more you know, the more you want, and the more you want to make change.”

Whether working toward a law degree, organizing community outreach for the homeless or low-income families, working within local politics, or collaborating with like-minded entrepreneurs, Danielle has the experiences that allow her a holistic perspective to make the change she wants to see in Sacramento. Just wait and see!


The Interview: Danielle Vincent’s Ideas Worth Spreading

TEDxSacramento: Why did you choose your current career?

Danielle: Originally, I became a small business owner and opened Firefly to fund Shoes and Sandwiches (S&S). S&S is an outlet to materialize change and a way to help people. I wanted to help the most underrepresented groups in our society – the homeless and low-income families that struggle with basic necessities.

While earning my minors in Administration of Justice and Corrections, I found myself more and more interested in local policies impacting the homeless and our community. I wanted to understand how these policies are applied and affect people in their day-to-day lives. I thought, if I have this passion for the law, I should learn as much as possible inside and outside the classroom and apply it to what I do in my community.

There has to be a middle ground between the different approaches to Sacramento homelessness — something between the ten year plan and tent cities; a union between the two. That’s where the community and organizations, like S&S, come in at the street level. Growing both Firefly and S&S will help further that mission.

TEDxSacramento: How has your business and organization changed over the years?

Danielle Vincent during a Shoes and Sandwiches (S&S) outreach event.

Danielle Vincent during a Shoes and Sandwiches (S&S) outreach event.

Danielle: My business evolved into the Midtown Collective inviting other entrepreneurs into my space after operating as a clothing exchange for almost three years. In order for Firefly to serve its ultimate purpose, funding S&S, something had to change. The Midtown Collective was the solution to that problem. Bringing other businesses into the space takes part of the burden of heavy operating costs off of Firefly and distributes it among many businesses. Firefly can now re-focus on building up S&S and achieving the goals that I have put in place for it.

At the same time, the Midtown Collective gives local entrepreneurs opportunities to open or expand their businesses that I never had. It eliminates rough experiences that small business owners experience by creating a support network. There is no club or membership that gives you the real life information needed when opening and operating a business. It’s nice to help in that way. The space has an eclectic feel with so much life and potential. It is exciting!

S&S is constantly collecting and planning for future outreach events and mobile units, including the overarching goal of opening a voucher based clothing closet or a “pop-up shop” that moves to different locations enabling low-income individuals to access clothing in a dignified way. These pop-ups will allow me to reach low-income and homeless school aged children, who are otherwise hidden from outreach at the street level.

TEDxSacramento: What motivates you to push forward during difficult moments in your career?

Danielle: The biggest struggle is not being able to progress the way I want in my organization at the rate that I had hoped for. It has been a struggle building Firefly into a foundation that can support S&S in a way that allows me to do as much outreach as I truly want to do.

What motivates me most is the community around me. They want to help, they want to be a part of something, and I want to give that to them. I want to not only make change, but I want to inspire change in others. I also find motivation at the street level in the most basic ways. The ones who need the most help aren’t the ones asking for it; they’re harder to find, and they’re harder to reach. Those are the ones that keep me going.

TEDxSacramento: What advice do you have for others in your field?

Danielle: Embrace change. Sometimes it [your business or organization] doesn’t turn out how you originally envisioned, but that is okay. Even when it comes down to what you love, you have to make changes if your mission calls for it. Be open to something as simple as altering product packaging or sometimes, like in my case, reworking your entire business model. If you can listen to and harness this necessity for evolution in business, there is no stopping you.

TEDxSacramento: Does anyone in your field inspire you? If so, who and why?

Danielle: I worked for Sacramento City Council member Steve Cohn during his final year and half in office handling his constituent affairs. He is one of my biggest inspirations that I can make a difference in my community. I took on a role in his office in order to gain extremely valuable experience in the city and to experience our City Council first hand.

During my time there, I was able to watch Council member Cohn lead his district and this city. He was driven by his ethics while not being afraid to make hard choices that are best for our community. I saw that until he left office. I hope one day I can make as big of an impact that he has for our community.

TEDxSacramento: What do you like most about working in the Sacramento region?

Danielle: There is such a sense of community in Sacramento that I haven’t felt anywhere else. I am originally from Orange County, but I feel at home here. You don’t know what home really feels like until you find it, and I found it in Sacramento. We are a State Capital, and if that is not at least a little bit inspiring, I don’t know what is. The capital represents hope and opportunity. Real change can happen here — the kind of change that resonates beyond the city boundaries. It is an amazing opportunity to be here.

TEDxSacramento: What is your favorite TED talk? How do the ideas of this talk impact your life?

Danielle: I am slightly hesitant about choosing this TED Talk because it may seem out of left field, but it's definitely my favorite. My favorite TED Talk is “How Do You Explain Consciousness?” by David Chalmers.

Experiencing our consciousness is something that many of us don't take the time to do regularly enough. Each human has their own inner movie playing and being cognitive of that is an important part of understanding the human condition — understanding each other, finding compassion for others in their struggles, and embracing each other during difficult times. We're inside our own consciousness viewing the world from behind our own distinct lens. Understanding that we're all viewing the same world distinctly differently is the first step to helping each other.

TEDxSacramento: If you have the opportunity to speak on the TED Stage, what would be your idea worth spreading?

Danielle: You’re going to hear ‘no’ a lot in life, and the bigger you dream, the more ‘no’ answers you’re going to get. Some of them are verbal, most of them aren’t. ‘No’ is never final; it’s just a signal to change what you’re doing, maybe just a little or sometimes a great deal. There’s always a ‘yes’ waiting amidst those ‘no’ responses when you’re willing to accept change.



The Art of Listening and Understanding

By Lauren Herman

Editor’s Note: This blog post is the third of a five-part series profiling women leadership in the Sacramento region. It serves as a prelude to our upcoming event, "This Changes Everything: WOMEN." These women were selected based on their contributions and participation in their community and industry. By means of this series, we hope to broaden our understanding of what constitutes a leader and provide a platform for ideas worth spreading. 


Professor Kristina Casper-Denman: Instructor, Student Advocate, and Listener

Professor Casper-Denman, Instructor, Leader

Professor Casper-Denman, Instructor, Leader

Professor Kristina Casper-Denman is a star in her own right. As an Anthropology and History Professor at American River College (ARC), she is dedicated to teaching community college students inside and outside the classroom. Known as the “EFG” (Educational Fairy Godmother) by her friends and colleagues, Professor Casper-Denman is celebrated for her ability to teach, but, more importantly, for her ability to listen.

Over the past 18 years, Professor Casper-Denman has served as an instructor, mentor, student club advisor, and active faculty member within numerous ARC campus centers and committees. It is no surprise that she has numerous campus awards under her belt – ARC Associated Student Body Instructor of the Year, ARC Foundation Faculty Award, and ARC Associated Student Body Club Advisor of the Year.

Despite her numerous accomplishments, such as recently earning a doctorate in Native American Studies from U.C. Davis, my interview with Professor Casper-Denman centered on her students rather than herself. She spoke with pride of the lessons and stories she has learned from them.

These stories signify her commitment to listening and understanding her students, to not only help them pass their courses, but also help them obtain their dreams. She keeps in contact with dozens of her current and former students to let them know that they are not alone, they are remembered, and they have someone in their life who believes in their dreams.

Professor Casper-Denman’s students are an inspiration to her, just as she wants to be an inspiration to them. When I asked her what motivated her to go back to graduate school to earn a Ph.D., her answer was straightforward. She answered, “If my students can do it, why can’t I? I want to show them that anyone can reach their dreams. Often, you just need someone to share those dreams with.”

When asked by a colleague if she would seek a professorship at a university, Professor Casper-Denman’s answer was absolutely, “NO!” Despite her professional achievements, she continues to work toward being the best instructor she can be at the same community college that helped her find her passion – teaching and helping students realize their calling in life.  


The Interview: Professor Casper-Denman's Ideas Worth Spreading

TEDxSacramento: Why did you choose your current career?

Professor Casper-Denman: I ended up teaching by mistake. After working at California Regional Primate Research Center in the infectious nursery at U.C. Davis, I was ready for something new. The job broke my heart. My husband told me about an available adjunct instructor position at American River College. When I applied, my only experience was teaching Sunday school, and I had a fear of public speaking, but I have taught there for almost 18 years. There is something about the student body; its diversity, including age, ability, gender, and experience, is unlike any community college I have visited. I am honored to work there.

TEDxSacramento: What motivates you to push forward during difficult moments in your career?

Professor Casper-Denman: The most difficult part of my career is not job stability; it is whether I am serving my students to the best of my ability. I get feedback from my students every semester. I ask them, “What do you need from me? You can ask me anything.” I have learned that students need help outside the classroom. They ask me all types of questions - anything from how to navigate college to advice on life decisions.

When I think about these students, I know that I am fortunate in so many ways. Some are homeless, returning to school after a long absence, or struggling with mental illness. What I have gone through in my life is nothing compared to the things that my students overcome everyday. They give me a reason to serve them. If they can overcome the many struggles that I have witnessed, I can approach life with humility and thoughtfulness in ways that make me a better instructor.

TEDxSacramento: What advice do you have for others in your field?

Professor Casper-Denman: Years ago we [faculty at American River College] talked about how to be better instructors. American River College prioritizes professional development for instructors. I think all instructors should seek ways to improve and better help our students. The minute we [instructors] stop reaching to be our best, the minute we stop serving our students, we fail our students. Instructors forget that improvement doesn’t mean you are bad; it means you want to be better.

TEDxSacramento: Does anyone in your field inspire you? If so, who and why?

Professor Casper-Denman: Students expect me to be inspired by the big names [in Anthropology] - Margaret Mead and Jane Goodall. I am inspired by the students who work within their communities, not by the big-name researchers. There are so many Native American students, whom I have worked with at U.C. Davis, who are revitalizing ceremonies, bringing economic development and preserving languages within their communities. You probably do not know their names, but there are many unknown individuals who learn, go back and are able to solve their communities’ problems. These people inspire me.

TEDxSacramento: What do you like most about working in the Sacramento region?

Professor Casper-Denman: What I love about Sacramento is that it is not only a Capital City, but also a home to diverse communities and opportunities. There are extended families, a large immigrant population, and a diversity of food options. I never had this where I grew-up [on the East Coast]. You can eat around the world just by visiting the restaurants on Broadway.

Sacramento has so much to offer – fresh fruit and vegetables at the farmer’s market, community theatre, and nature. You can walk from Folsom to Old Sacramento and see deer; what other region offers that? There is a huge Native American community as well. The diversity is amazing!

TEDxSacramento: What is your favorite TED talk? How do the ideas of this talk impact your life?

Professor Casper-Denman: I think Rita's Pierson TEDTalk, “Every Kid Needs a Champion,” is important because it challenges how we think about education. We think of education in different categories, including University, community college, K-12, and pre-school, but I think it is more than that.

As Rita points out, education should be defined by personal impact, building relationships. I think she is right to ask, if we give up now, who will be there for our students later. Teachers should remind themselves that we were once that problem student. Educators who are burned out should watch this talk and consider that the most difficult students are often the most wanting and deserving students.

TEDxSacramento: If you have the opportunity to speak on the TED Stage, what would be your idea worth spreading?

Professor Casper-Denman: I think the most important issue that I can speak to is the importance of non-linear careers. Most of us will never have a lot of money, like Bill and Melinda Gates, to fund massive projects that we hope will change the world. It is important to give back everyday no matter what you do whether it’s signing a petition, reading an article or the news, or sharing your ideas with others. Be a life-long learner, educate yourself, and take responsibility for what happens in the world.



Think Globally, Act Locally

By Lauren Herman

Editor’s Note: This blog post is the second of a five-part series profiling women leadership in the Sacramento region. It serves as a prelude to our upcoming event, "This Changes Everything: WOMEN." These women were selected based on their contributions and participation in their community and industry. By means of this series, we hope to broaden our understanding of what constitutes a leader and provide a platform for ideas worth spreading. 


Dr. Soheir Stolba: Professor, Non-Profit Director, and Philanthropist

Dr. Soheir Stolba of the SHARE Institute shares her ideas worth spreading.

Dr. Soheir Stolba of the SHARE Institute shares her ideas worth spreading.

Think globally, act locally is a strong belief of Dr. Soheir Stolba. It’s no wonder that this belief became the mission of the SHARE Institute, a grassroots non-profit organization that she founded over ten years ago with the help of two other liked-minded women in the Sacramento region. These women came together with the purpose of partnering and supporting small non-profit organizations around the world that work within their communities for the health and welfare of women and children.

Over the last 14 years, SHARE has funded 220 projects in 30 countries - an impressive outreach for a small non-profit operated mainly by volunteers and supported by private individual donors or other small organizations.

After gaining her doctorate in political anthropology from U.C. Davis, Dr. Stolba learned the strength of local ownership and accountability during her work as a consultant for United States Agency for International Development (USAID). She found that big donors and large-scale outreach are not always required to make a difference; bigger is not always better.

Dr. Soheir Stolba with SHARE Institute Interns

Dr. Soheir Stolba with SHARE Institute Interns

Dr. Stolba also tries to foster a sense of ownership and empowerment by helping college students to volunteer abroad and to develop philanthropic projects in their Sacramento communities. By means of the SHARE Institute Intern Program, she helps these college students experience the results of improving their communities. 

Dr. Stolba strives to teach future generations in both the United States and aboard that anyone can make a difference no matter how big or small their contributions may seem.

The Interview: Dr. Stolba’s Ideas Worth Spreading

TEDxSacramento: Why did you choose your career?

Dr. Stolba: I came to the United States with a degree in English, but I took a Cultural Anthropology course at a community college. I found a disciple I was passionate about. I thought that with my experience traveling and growing up in Egypt, I could teach it. I already knew a lot about the cultures that I was learning about from my instructor. I had the travel experience and the language needed to give a unique perspective different than the instructor.

TEDxSacramento: Why did you start the SHARE Institute?

Dr. Stolba: I have done a great deal of international consulting for USAID, the World Bank and many other international organizations. I learned that there is a great need for the advancement of women in terms of poverty. I became a big believer in microcredit. I wanted to establish a people to people organization that helps make visible issues that affect poor women and children.

I used my international contacts with women, whom I thought had the potential to change or were already changing their communities but lacked funding. Later, I made contacts through the Internet and social media to expand SHARE’s reach. I did not want SHARE to become a big donor. I thought it should only fund community-based groups that need help.

TEDxSacramento: Why did you choose to be a part of the non-profit world?

Dr. Stolba: Because I am a firm believer that small organizations working with other small organizations can make a difference in the lives of women without big funding. Big funding can attract unwelcome individuals who may have motives other than helping women. Individuals working to help their community know the problems and can propose possible solutions better than anyone else.

TEDxSacramento: What motivates you to push forward during difficult moments in your career?

Dr. Stolba: What helps me during difficult times is my firm belief that the SHARE Institute has the right mission and approach to improving the lives of women and their communities. It helps that I have the support of the [SHARE Institute] board, other women who are in full support of the organization’s programs.

TEDxSacramento: What advice do you have for others who would like to work in the non-profit industry?

Dr. Stolba: You have to be passionate about the mission of the organization you are working in because it’s a lot of work with little pay. So, you have to believe that what you are doing is making a difference in the lives of others.

TEDxSacramento: Does anyone in your field inspire you? If so, who and why?

Dr. Stolba: Today [the day of the interview] is the anniversary of the death of my dear friend, Barbara Pillsbury, who was my colleague at USAID. She was a big believer in helping women. We became good friends, and I owe it to her that I am here now. We remained friends, and our lives intertwined for the next 20 years. She inspired me to start SHARE and to continue to help women worldwide.

TEDxSacramento: What do you like most about working in the Sacramento region?

Dr. Stolba: I enjoy the weather and the rural feeling of living in Fair Oaks with my horses and dog, yet I am so close to town. Living in the Sacramento region has many possibilities, and you don’t miss out on cultural experiences.

TEDxSacramento: What is your favorite TED Talk?

Dr. Stolba: I enjoyed watching Sheikha Al Mayassa's TEDTalk, “Globalizing the Local, Localizing the Global,” because she talks about cultural identity in a new and fresh way.  She manages to maintain tradition but have a dialogue with the West.


TEDxSacramento: If you have the opportunity to speak on the TED stage, what would be your idea worth spreading?

Dr. Stolba: I would talk about the importance of volunteering in a small non-profit organization that has a mission you can identify with. It’s an important, life changing experience to seek solutions and remain active in your community.

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Why Failure is a Blessing, Not a Curse

By Lauren Herman

Editor’s Note: This blog post is the first of a five-part series profiling women leadership in the Sacramento region. It serves as a prelude to our upcoming event, "This Changes Everything: WOMEN." These women were selected based on their contributions and participation in their community and industry. By means of this series, we hope to broaden our understanding of what constitutes a leader and provide a platform for ideas worth spreading. 

I have to admit that interviewing is a secret obsession of mine. It fuels my curiosity and belief that everyone has a story. Everyone has something they can teach to one another and learn from one another. Thus, I had to begin this blog series with an individual that without a doubt can offer readers a story with a lesson and purpose.


Tania Voochen: Small Business Owner, Entrepreneur, And Instructor

Tania Voochen, Sacramentan, Leader

Tania Voochen, Sacramentan, Leader

Tania Voochen looks like a tough chick (showing more than a few well-crafted tattoos and a wardrobe of black attire and boots), but has a heart of gold, a sharp mind that is as quick as her tongue, and an eye for hair.

When I asked Tania if she would be willing to sit down with me for an interview as an example of a leader in the Sacramento region and within her industry, she simply asked, “Why me?” Her honesty is the exact reason I responded, “Why not you?”

For many years, Tania has served as a leader in Sacramento as a business owner, entrepreneur and instructor. During her eight years working at byuti salon + spa, Tania delved into not only being a small business owner, but also serves as the cutting instructor at the salon.

Throughout her career, Tania has competed in numerous competitions and attended hands-on courses across the country with the purpose of expanding her skill set. She will not stop anytime soon. Next year, she will take advanced cutting and styling courses to gain a network educator title.

Despite all of these achievements, she doesn’t see herself as a leader but rather as someone who simply loves their craft. Her humility, strive for continual excellence, dedication to her industry, and work ethic make her a leader in her community and in the Sacramento region.

After leaving home at a young age, entering into beauty school while supporting herself, facing numerous struggles and heart-ache in her journey, today Tania, ever humble and self-reflexive, stands as an example of what can happen when you follow your passion and dreams.


The Interview: Tania’s Ideas Worth Spreading

TEDxSacramento: Why did you choose your career?

Tania: I was not a good student in the traditional sense, so I was never encouraged to go in the direction of college. I was told that I was lazy, and because of my intimidation with school, I decided to follow a different path – hair – which is something that I equally love just as much as books. In my 30s, I have learned that I should not have listened to those that didn’t support me. I love what I do now, and I am grateful for those who have helped me along the way to what I am doing today as an instructor and stylist.

TEDxSacramento: What motivates you to push forward during difficult moments in your career?

Tania: Anything worth having is never easy. That is what I tell my students. Everything is a learning opportunity; never waste a defeating moment. Life should make you fight harder every year, and you should not expect anything less. Knowing this makes it easier to not become a victim and to pick yourself up by your bootstraps after a good cry. Always strive to be better, and those difficult moments will get easier with time.  

TEDxSacramento: What advice do you have for others in your field?

Tania: People come into [the beauty industry] because they think it’s easy. They think it’s easy money, and you get to come to work whenever you want and have no responsibilities. It’s the biggest myth. It’s a big slap in the face when you learn it’s not true. You work harder than 90% [of people] out there, and you have dozens of bosses. Those bosses are your clients, and if you are not on your game or a good listener, you will lose them. It’s hard, but one of the most rewarding lines of work. If you think nothing less, you will fail. You have to be a stylist for the love of the craft, not the money.

And, always be open to learning new things. I may be an instructor, but I teach not because I know everything. I teach because, in my opinion, teaching makes you better at whatever you do. You have to know it to teach it. You can’t guide someone in the wrong or right way. A good teacher is a student of their teachings.

TEDxSacramento: Does anyone in your field inspire you? If so, who and why?

Tania: Definitely. Many people, especially my mentors, who I assisted over the years [have inspired me]. They will never know how much they impacted me. To this day, I always think of them and what they taught me. Their mentorship was invaluable. My heroes are those that strive to do their best, those who are at the top-notch of their game. Just as I serve as a cutting instructor to many, I am also a student to those in my industry to whom I look for inspiration and reinvention of techniques. They guide my path now with what I want to be and become.

TEDxSacramento: What do you like most about working in the Sacramento region?

Tania: I like working near the Capital. I love capital cities. There are so many different religious and political views here [in Sacramento]. Capitals are a melting pot that allow for diversity within communities with different viewpoints, and there is an opportunity to learn from those differences. I am inspired by those differences in my daily work.

TEDxSacramento: What is your favorite TED talk? How do the ideas of this talk impact your life?

Tania: “The 4 a.m. Mystery” is my favorite TED Talk at the moment because I enjoy the fact that it’s whimsical. It’s inspirational and points out the poetry of life. Life is a circle with patterns and repetition, and there is something reassuring and beautiful about it. For someone to deliver something that allowed me to see the connecting patterns of life, that is something amazing. Delivery is everything, so how can you not enjoy that TED Talk.

TEDxSacramento: If you have the opportunity to speak on the TED stage, what would be your idea worth spreading?

Tania: What I love about TED Talks is the theme of being passionate about something and challenging yourself whether you are a presenter or listener to be a student.

I would talk about being open to failure, embracing failure. We forget that it’s okay to learn as we grow older and to learn from both failure and success. There will always be those moments that set us up for our futures. We need to respect and honor that some of those times we will fail in life. We need to be okay that life is a disaster, but it will be a fun disaster if we are open to change and challenge.


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Five Women Leaders in Our Capital Region and Their Ideas Worth Spreading

By Lauren Herman

Four years ago, the CEO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, stood on the TED Stage to address the hot button issue of gender in the workplace, addressing in great detail why there are too few women leaders worldwide in almost every profession.

Many warned her to avoid the topic, not just as a leader of a Fortune 500 company, but also as a woman.  She did not heed the continual warnings about the damage the topic could do to her career. Instead, she spoke about her experiences and challenges as a leader in the corporate world from the view of a woman, especially as one of the few of her gender to reach the top leadership level in her field.

Since Sheryl pointed out the elephant in the boardroom, it is a topic that society seems to be open to discussing more than ever before, yet the glass ceiling has not been shattered.  A few of Sheryl’s TEDTalk questions remain relevant, including “How do we change these numbers at the top? How do we make this different?”


Announcing Series Highlighting Region's Women Leaders

TEDxSacramento, a licensed local TEDx organization, is proud to continue this conversation with a new series of blog posts highlighting five women leaders in the Sacramento region and their expanding leadership positions in their industries.

We hope that you, the reader of this blog, whether male or female, will use their stories as sources of inspiration for the continual growth of strong female leadership in the Capitol Region.

Want a Priority Invitation to Our Next Event?

If you want to hear more ideas worth spreading in the Sacramento community, we encourage you to take a break from your ordinary routine and step into an intellectual odyssey with hundreds of bright and inquisitive friends at the upcoming TEDxSacramentoSalon, “This Changes Everything: Women," on December 12, 2014.

For a priority invitation to this event, please apply online.



Emily Castor on Ride-Sharing, the Sharing Economy and How It Can Change the Capital Region

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By Lauren Herman

Emily Castor, Director of Community Relations, Lyft

Emily Castor, Director of Community Relations, Lyft

On September 26, 2014, at TEDxSacramento’s “This Changes Everything: Seeds of Change” event, Emily Castor spoke about the fascinating evolution of peer-to-peer exchange networks and the sharing economy. Emily is an original Lyft team member who has helped develop the ride-sharing service into what it is today. She currently serves as Lyft’s Director of Community Relations. 

Let’s now take a ride through Emily’s recent talk.


Need a Lyft?: The Ride-Sharing Service

If you have not heard or used the service, Lyft is a ride-sharing service that has popped up in Sacramento. Whether or not you use Lyft, you may be familiar with its iconic symbol, the pink mustache which can be seen on the front of cars driving throughout your neighborhood.

Individuals with the Lyft app can request a “lyft” from a lyft driver who uses his or her own private vehicle to earn a little extra cash while helping out a fellow neighbor through a shared ride. In order to ensure trust between users, both the driver and rider are given the opportunity to rate one another after the service is complete.

Lyft is an example of collaborative consumption supported by trust and accountability made possible through technology and social media. Only top rated drivers and riders are allowed to be a part of this network.  


Ride-Sharing as Part of the Sharing Economy: Not Only Good for the Economy, but for Society and the Soul

It is no surprise that as one of the original Lyft team members and current Director of Community Relations, Emily not only discusses the changes that Lyft has brought to her own life, but points out the many benefits to society as well.

Emily makes the case that ride-sharing services are not only an alternative transportation model for policy makers and urban planners to consider, especially as the urban population continues to grow worldwide. Such examples of collaborative consumption are transformative agents for our economy and culture that move us closer toward what is called the sharing economy.

Audience at TEDxSacramento's "This Changes Everything: Seeds of Change"

Audience at TEDxSacramento's "This Changes Everything: Seeds of Change"

The sharing economy is a movement that aims to increase opportunities to share human and physical resources through collaboration and exchange. Activities within the sharing economy include swapping, exchanging, collective consumption and purchasing, recycling, crowdsourcing, co-operatives, renting, shared ownership and pay-as-you-use economy.

Emily goes on to explain that networks and marketplaces developed through the sharing economy, such as Lyft, make entrepreneurism easier than ever before benefiting the American worker and consumer.

She advocates that these opportunities expand employment beyond the conventional cubical and nine to five hour workweek to meet the needs and skillset of individuals. Popular start-ups following the principles of the sharing economy include Kiva, Airbnb, Etsy and Skillshare.          

According to Emily, the social impacts of the sharing economy are just as important as the potential it can create for our economy in Sacramento. Collaborative consumption marketplaces fuel opportunities to connect community members through in person interactions, but also through networks sustained by trust between strangers both next door and on the other side if the world.

Trust between strangers is a hard concept for many. But, communalism and cooperation promoted through the sharing economy are not untraditional, even for America that prides itself on individualism. Ever checked out a book from the library? Do you have a Netflix account?  A large segment of society shares personal information about themselves online using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.


The Case for the Sharing Economy: Another Perspective from the TED Stage

Echoing Emily’s enthusiasm for the societal impact of the sharing economy is fellow TED speaker and researcher Rachel Botsma. Four years ago on the TED stage, Rachel in her TEDTalk, "The Case for Collaborative Consumption," argued that the expansion of the sharing economy is not only inevitable, but an exciting and positive change that satisfies our primal instincts in which cooperation and sharing are necessary for survival.

Rachel states that, “we're taking a leap to create a more sustainable system built to serve our innate needs for community and individual identity. I believe it will be referred to as a revolution, so to speak -- when society, faced with great challenges, made a seismic shift from individual getting and spending towards a rediscovery of collective good.”

In other words, she believes the sharing or collective economy move us from a culture of "me" to a culture of ‘we’ ” that will benefit humanity in the long run.

After all, if on average a car costs $8,000 a year to maintain, but is only used on average one hour a day, it makes sense economically, but also socially to embrace peer-to-peer exchange networks made possible by the sharing economy that allows us to share resources while saving and making money.


From the TEDxSacramento stage to the State Capital: How is Ride-Sharing Impacting the Capital Region 

Emily brings to the TEDxSacramento stage new ways of thinking that are necessary to cope and plan for our changing Capital Region through the exploration of the sharing economy, particularly Lyft.

California has been a leader in technology and start-ups, so perhaps the golden state will lead the way in the development of ride-sharing and the expansion of what is deemed public transportation.

Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento recently wrote a San Francisco Chronicle article praising the innovation that ride-sharing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, bring to cities, such as Sacramento. Simply put, he believes that “ride-sharing works: it works for the drivers and it works for the customers.” But, not everyone is convinced of the speed and direction in which ride-sharing is developing. 

Emily Castor speaking about the sharing economy at TEDxSacramento's "This Changes Everything: Seeds of Change" event on September 26, 2014.

Emily Castor speaking about the sharing economy at TEDxSacramento's "This Changes Everything: Seeds of Change" event on September 26, 2014.

Recent legislation in Sacramento would require ride-sharing companies in California to carry the same insurance as taxi companies. Many criticize that the evolution of ride-sharing is outpacing regulation. Mayor Johnson has responded by stating such efforts would “discourage innovation and force out-of-date thinking on Next Economy companies such as Uber and Lyft.”

Currently, eight out of ten Americans live in an urban environment. Urbanism will continue to be a trend worldwide. According to a United Nations Population fund report, by 2030, six out of 10 people will live in a city. Knowing the inevitable, can every individual own a private vehicle? In the urban century, there are simply not enough resources. Thus, this discussion of alternative transportation models is necessary.  


The Sharing Economy: Your Turn to Give It a Review

Time will only tell the direction and speed of its development, and how governments will respond to the new services and opportunities of the sharing economy.

Fortunately, you have the opportunity to form your own opinion. Consider joining or using the many opportunities of the sharing economy in our Capital Region and beyond.

  • Want to learn how to make sushi, but do not have the time to take a full semester course? Join Shareskill, and find someone in your region to share this skill with you.
  • Going on vacation soon? Try Airbnb rather than a hotel.
  • Avoiding another trip to Ikea because you do not want to assemble another piece of furniture? Hire someone within TaskRabbit with the experience to do it for you. 

Take Emily’s advance; “tap into economic engine that is the human spirit through sharing.” It’s never been easier! These collaborative consumption marketplaces may not only save you money, but also transform our cultures and economies moving us into the global village of the 21st Century.



TEDxSacramento’s “Seeds of Change”: Changing Our Capital Region One Idea at a Time

By Lauren Herman

Sacramento is ready for a new season -- not just a weather change -- but a new season of TEDxSacramento events!

The first TEDxSacramento Salon event of the 2014/2015 season, entitled “This Changes Everything: Seeds of Change,” took place in the company of more than 600 attendees who spent hours together laughing, sharing and listening to the many speakers, presenters and artists at the Wells Fargo Pavilion on September 26, 2014.

TEDxSacramento speakers (from left to right:  Phil America,   Emily Castor, Andrew Markell, and Dr. BJ Davis)  gather for a group photo before the "Seeds of Change" event on September 26, 2014 at the Wells Fargo Pavilion.

TEDxSacramento speakers (from left to right: Phil America, Emily Castor, Andrew Markell, and Dr. BJ Davis) gather for a group photo before the "Seeds of Change" event on September 26, 2014 at the Wells Fargo Pavilion.

The performers were invited to speak based on their continual efforts to challenge and reimagine the world we live in today. In conjunction with the theme “Seeds of Change,” they offered the audience views and perspectives to spark new ways of thinking, speaking and living in our community.

Some offered life lessons from personal experiences in prison, living in slums both domestically and internationally, studying with Tibetan monks, and trying their hand at entrepreneurism while others offered inspiration through song and movement.

Attendee, Jo Dharshana Balchandra, joined her friends for the night with much enthusiasm stating, "This was the first TEDx event I've been to. It was inspiring to hear the speakers' transformational stories which impacted their lives and their community."

For those of you who did not attend, don’t worry. Good things come to those who wait! The event was filmed live and will become available online shortly for viewing. Stay tuned for upcoming announcements, and you will be able to hear and see for yourself all the great things that took place during TEDxSacramento’s “This Changes Everything: Seeds of Change.”

This salon event is only the beginning! There are two more events planned for the 2014/2015 season with the next event taking place December 2014! Take advantage of these community events – fully-planned and coordinated independently for a localized TED-like experience in the Capital Region. We can’t wait to see you there!

Thank you to the following individuals for their performances at the "Seeds of Change" event: Phil America, Be Brave Bold Robot, Emily Castor, Dr. BJ Davis, Joe Kye and the Sacramento Black Art of Dance, and Andrew Markell.

The following TEDTalks were also featured: “The Voices in My Head” by Eleanor Longden, “How Not to be Ignorant about the World” by Hans and Ola Rosling, and “Get Ready for Hybrid Thinking” by Ray Kurzweil.



A Conversation with Ananya Roy: The Unmaking and Remaking of the World-Class City through Visibility, Solidarity and Dwelling

Editor's NoteThis post is the second in a two-part series exploring the challenges and progress being made in pursuit of the world-class city. Read the first post: Our Future: Urbanism and an Unequal World-Class City.

By Lauren Herman

After listening to Professor Ananya Roy’s TEDCity 2.0 2013 talk and researching the World Cup, I was left with the question that many TED enthusiasts have pondered: what change is happening now?

Can the current vision and implementation of the world-class city change?

Professor Ananya Roy, Professor of City and Regional Planning, Distinguished Chair in Global Poverty and Practice, UC Berkeley

Professor Ananya Roy, Professor of City and Regional Planning, Distinguished Chair in Global Poverty and Practice, UC Berkeley

I sat down with my former undergraduate advisor Professor Roy in her UC Berkeley office to gain a better understanding of her TED talk and how the urban marginalized are fighting for their right to the city. 

In our interview, Professor Roy pointed out that the following organizations are important to discuss on the TED stage because they illustrate the possibility of unmaking and remaking of current vision and practices of world-class city through acts of “solidarity, visibility and dwelling.”


Visibility: Sticky Situations in South Africa

To the eyes of an outsider, the community of Diepsloot, located outside of Johannesburg, is a former transit camp turned slum with informal housing and minimal services for its 138,000 residences.

But to its residences, Diepsloot is a vibrant community with a strong will to mold its community and city through the implementation of community driven projects with the help of the organization Sticky Situations.

Roy singles out the power of one project, the Diepsloot Arts and Culture Network. The project provides exposure for the community showcasing their creative works through singing, dancing, and reciting of poetry that elevate their views and opinions regarding the future of Johannesburg.

Such movement is vital in an age of continual construction and remodeling under the National Upgrading Support Programme (NUSP) of South Africa that continues to greatly affect the 1.4 million households living in informality.


Solidarity: Shack/Slum Dwellers International

In the tradition of Cities Alliance and National Urban Reform Movement, the Shack/Slum Dwellers (SDI) International for nearly 20 years has mobilized and organized as an international network of community-based organizations of slum and informal settlement communities in more than thirty countries.

Slum apartment complex, Dhaka, Bangladesh. August 25, 2012.  Photo by Zoriah .  Used with permission .

Slum apartment complex, Dhaka, Bangladesh. August 25, 2012. Photo by Zoriah. Used with permission.

It considers itself to be a “global network of the poor” throughout the Global South that elevates the voices and place the poor at the center of urban development, specifically the right to build homes on public land in an age of rising land prices of the world-class city.

Through their connectedness across global lines, SDI advocates and teaches “horizontal exchange” and community-to-community exchange in which members see themselves and each other as experts. This allows for the creation of a unified voice of the poor and opens doors for collaboration with government and academic urban planning policies.


Dwelling: Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign

It’s May 2012. The Housing Identification and Target unit of the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign is in Woodlawn, South Side of Chicago.

Describing their practice of identifying, occupying and improving foreclosed homes, one member writes, “...we cautiously ascend the staircase; the pitch black boarded-up house — unlike most of the other bank-owned buildings on the block — isn’t completely uninhabitable. It had been vacated, sealed and winterized in June 2010, according to a notice on the wall posted by BAC Field Services Corporation, a division of Bank of America...But Bank of America has clearly forgotten about the house...we have not.”

The efforts of the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign arose as part of the Take Back the Land Movement that aims to reclaim homes lost, but not forgotten, in the process of foreclosure and repossession during the subprime mortgage crisis of the Great Recession.

This movement is especially important because government assistance was limited compared to state funds used in the bail outs of Wall Street.

Roy explains that by matching “homeless people with peopleless homes” a new urban future for Chicago is created through the occupation and improvement of otherwise unused, vacant property. Property values improve, the pride of neighborhoods is renewed and the once homeless have a home to live and raise their children, the future generations of the city.


Our Future: Hope for An Equal World-Class City

Along with the urban social movements and organizations described above, there are state interventions and development practitioners advocating for inclusive urban policies. One, most recently praised in the American media, is the construction of an escalator connecting the shacks of slum dwellers with the commercial district of Medellin, Colombia.

Unfortunately, such a policy depoliticizes development and urban planning forcing these social movements to fight for their own systemic change that comes in the form of legal, social and economic rights, including social services, affordable housing and transportation, and free education. These rights enable citizens to uphold the right to the city -- to live, exist and thrive in their urban environment.

The right to the city is a unifying banner that challenges political processes deeply embedded in local governments and the international community that are married to the current vision of the world-class city. Through acts of visibility, solidarity and dwelling, the power struggle over the city, its present and future, has begun.

All of us have a place in their struggle because in cities around the world economic inequality is rising, gentrification causes displacement, urban mega-projects lead to the privatization of public funds, and the privatization of social services and public spaces leads to prioritizing profit over citizen welfare.

Professor Roy further broadens this idea by stating, “...While I like to think individuals make history and change, I am more concerned with how we are involved with structures of power that both enable and disable our abilities to act...change happens through collective action. Change happens when things are reframed.”

The collective actions of urban social movements and organizations allow us to believe that new visions of our world and the concepts of citizenship are tools that can be borrowed, reframed and molded to create new urban practices across the globe.

Professor Roy proves this by bringing these “change makers” of the urban 21st century to the TED stage. Let us join them in demanding and creating a city we are all proud to call home.

The author wishes to thank University of California, Berkeley Professor Ananya Roy for making herself available for an interview with TEDxSacramento and for years of personal and professional inspiration on and off the TED stage.



Our Future: Urbanism and An Unequal World-Class City

By Lauren Herman

Editor's Note: This post is the first in a two-part series exploring the current state, challenges, and progress being made in pursuit of the world-class city. 

On Brazil’s city walls, it is not uncommon to see “F#*K FIFA” [my own censorship] or illustrations of malnourished children begging for food from fat politicians and World Cup representatives.

Such social commentary centered on the 20th FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) World Cup hosted by Brazil is unexpected in the football capital of the world. Football is the pride of Brazil, a country that has won the World Cup more than any other country.

An example of the Brazilian graffiti about the 2014 World Cup. Source:  carlosdorna  

An example of the Brazilian graffiti about the 2014 World Cup. Source: carlosdorna 

While the Brazilian government speaks of the legacy gained from hosting the World Cup, its citizens use the walls and streets of their cities to question 'at what cost?'

The football spirit of Brazil was deflated long before the country lost to Germany this year. Many Brazilians argue that the cost of event preparations, currently estimated at $11 billion, should have been spent on education, housing and food assistance for its citizens rather than large stadiums, surveillance and venues for a four-week event.

This concern for citizen welfare is supported by Brazil’s poverty rate. Brazil is the seventh largest economy, but one of the most economically unequal countries in the world.

Another point of tension is the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Brazilians in favela communities built on public land to make way for the stadiums, parking lots and other event accommodations. Despite the progressive policy of the City Statute that protects the existence of these communities, the World Cup created opportunities for the suspension of squatter rights in Brazil. [i]

It is ironic that the poor, the favelados evicted from the only homes they can afford cannot afford the ticket price of football games played on the land they once called home. Their role in this international event is to build the stadiums and serve the tourists. The same occurred in South Africa four years ago during World Cup preparations. [ii]

The voices of descent and apathy toward the recent World Cup give rise to a broader discussion of urban development: the world-class city, which is creating deep inequalities in city life.


The Making of an Unequal World-Class City

Current urban inequalities, such as those discussed above, are described by University of California, Berkeley Professor Ananya Roy in her TEDCity2.0 2013 talk about the future of urbanism: the world-class city.

Professor Ananya Roy, TEDCity2.0 2013 Speaker

Professor Ananya Roy, TEDCity2.0 2013 Speaker

Professor Roy describes the world-class city as the current blueprint of urban development undertaken by governments to attract foreign investment and achieve global competitiveness.

Within this framework, towers of glass and steel, large airports with luxury accommodations, and sporting events that show ingenuity through the creation of billion-dollar venues with state of the art transportation and urban centers become the standard of every city. The discussion around the world-class city is important because cities are our global future.

The world is relocating to cities at a faster rate than ever before, and the majority of population growth will happen in urban regions. It is estimated that the urban population of the developing world will reach 4 billion in less than ten years. Where will this growing population live? Not in the world-class city. [iii]

Professor Roy explains that the paradox of the world-class city lies in its dirty little secret - its dependency of the poor, the urban majority that the world-class city excludes from its existence.

The poor clean the homes and offices, work within the factories, raise and teach the children of the world class city; in other words, the poor maintain and build the world-class city life for the minority, but not for themselves.

In the world-class city, the poor are pushed to the margins. Slum, informal settlement, barrio, favela, colonias, gecekondus and bustee are all used to describe the same “...refuge for people displaced by erosions, cyclones, floods, famine, or that more recent generator of insecurity, development.” [iv]

Despite this reliance, the loyalty of city governments lies with the standards set by development practitioners and foreigner investors to build a city of international importance. In Brazil, this comes in the form of hosting world-class sporting events, such as the 20th FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, no matter the impact to its citizens or use of public funds.

The once Brazilian president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, speaks to this truth. When Brazil was awarded the bid for the 20th World Cup, he said with tears in his eyes,

“...Today is the day that Brazil gained its international citizenship...I think this is the day to celebrate because Brazil has left behind the level of second-class countries and entered the rank of first-class countries. Today, we earned respect. The world has finally recognized that this is Brazil’s time.”

Unfortunately, the respect and citizenship discussed above are not extended to the poor in the world-class cities of Brazil or any other country. This is especially unfortunate in Brazil since the constitution of Brazil upholds the "Right to the City" for all. [v]

Despite state and corporate support for the current evolution of the world-class city, Professor Roy points out that its story does not end here; it is only the beginning. I sat down with Professor Roy to discuss her TED talk and learn how urban civil society is unmaking and remaking the world-class city.

Please note that my conversation with Professor Roy will be shared in a second post, "A Conversation with Ananya Roy: The Unmaking and Remaking of the World-Class City through Solidarity, Visibility and Dwelling."

References for Blog Post:

[i, ii, v] Zirin, Dave. Brazil’s Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, The Olympics and the Fight for Democracy. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2014.

[iii, iv]  Davis, Mike. Planet of Slums. New York: Verso, 2007.



Got Volunteerism? The Will to Do Good as a Societal Disease and a Panacea of Poverty as explained from the TED stage

By Lauren Herman

Years ago, while volunteering in Kenya, I changed someone’s life. Not through the delivery of clean water, medicine or housing services (the cliché volunteer activities in “poverty-stricken Africa”), but through debt and bondage.

After taking several semesters of courses, I felt prepared and excited to volunteer in a microcredit program during an eight-week break from school. However, I quickly learned of the ethical challenges of volunteerism through my life’s intersection with Mary, a borrower who unexpectedly fell ill during her loan repayment period.

With medical bills accumulating and Mary unable to work due to illness, her business soon failed. Despite her hardships, Mary continued to pay her loan to avoid the various repercussions that other defaulters reported experiencing, such as social tension, physical abuse, and loss of household items.

High-pressure repayment tactics originated from the programs of American funders who established high repayment rate as a matrix for gauging success. Mary was the victim of policies created by individuals on the other side of the world, who will never learn of her borrowing experience.  

I describe Mary’s story not to discourage volunteerism or philanthropy, but to provide a platform for discussion and reflexivity on the narrative that the West creates around the need to save the poor in the developing world, specifically Africa. Such discussion takes place on the TED stage many times.


From the villages of Kenya to the TED stage: Philanthropy Through the Eyes of the Donor

In the TED talk, “Why Giving Away Wealth has been the Most Satisfying Thing We’ve Done,” Bill and Melinda Gates discuss their foundation’s past and present efforts in the fields of health, poverty, education and policy advocacy. Bill and Melinda Gates stress that in order to tackle current global challenges we need the will to believe that we can improve our world.  The Gates have strived to achieve this through their foundation and other charitable and research based initiatives.

TED Talk: "Why giving away wealth has been the most satisfying thing we've done"

TED Talk: "Why giving away wealth has been the most satisfying thing we've done"

A completely different perspective comes from another philanthropist, Peter Buffet, the son of Warren Buffet, billionaire and philanthropist who has pledged to give away his wealth.

In his New York Times Op-Ed Piece entitled “The Charitable Industrial Complex,” Peter Buffet expresses his wariness of rich American and European individuals establishing private foundations and charities. He warns against the intended and unintended “philanthropic colonialism,” creating poverty reducing initiatives, particularly in the Global South, designed and implemented with the perspective of Western donors.

He points out that rather than moving toward policy level change that could provide clean water, universal education, and healthcare for the billions in need, charities are problematically trying to provide such life necessities at a piecemeal pace.


The Right Approach: To be Empathetic or Apathetic?

Who has the right perspective and approach?

Can the will to improve, whether volunteerism or philanthropy, cause more harm than good? Can the will to improve tackle the world’s most salient issues?

I hope that Mary’s story contributes the need for philanthropists and advocates of charitable works to reflect upon the responsibility that such positions of authority and privilege require.

It is not my advice to become apathetic, but rather empathetic to the lives of those you want to help by attempting to understand why charities, volunteers and aid exist in their current forms. I ask volunteers to exist between what my past advisor, UC Berkeley Professor Ananya Roy, describes as the “hubris of benevolence and the paralysis of cynicism.”

Bill and Melinda Gates have recognized the same internal struggles over their philanthropic efforts. Bill Gates recalls that, “...we were talking about the poorest, and could you have a big impact on them? Were there things that weren't being done? There was a lot we didn't know. Our naïveté is pretty incredible, when we look back on it. But, we had a certain enthusiasm...”

As Bill and Melinda Gates learned through years of experience with the Gates Foundation, studying, working on and donating to poverty action is full of ethical, political and logistical challenges.

Through engagement with others and ourselves perhaps we can head in a different direction. I urge you to reflect upon how you spend your money, how you consume, how and if you vote, how you talk to others, what you read, and how you think about and engage with the world. Critically examining such aspects of life hopefully allows us to recognize how we exist in the very systems we want to change before donating money, launching social programs and participating in acts of "voluntourism".


Be a Hummingbird: Doing the Best We Can

To help with this overwhelming process, I will leave you with a story made famous by Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmentalist whom the women I worked with in Kenya greatly admired.

One day, a forest was consumed by a fire with flames growing larger and larger. The animals of the forest were left terrified and powerless except for the hummingbird. It flew to the nearest stream carrying water with its beak to extinguish the fire. The other animals told the hummingbird that it was wasting its time; it was too small to put out the fire. The hummingbird responded to their cynicism by stating, “I am doing the best that I can,” and continued its efforts. The hummingbird was determined to use its speed and resourcefulness to save his home.

Many of us are and should be the hummingbird doing the best he or she can in a world of overwhelming flames. Get inspired by individuals, such as the Gates who bring poverty and inequality to center stage, but don’t forget to be critical, patient, and empathetic in your search for a changed world.

The rain forest is dependent on the hummingbird just as the world is dependent on you, no matter how small each of us may feel at times.