TEDxMinneapolis: McFail Salon

It's always an interesting time when I exit the walls called my bedroom; and Friday evening was no different. I attended the local rendition of a TEDx Salon; which as was explained, was to be a scaled down version of the larger TEDx, or TED "experience". They're real big on branding in the TED scene. You can't even throw a TEDx event unless you've attended the main TED event; tickets go for over $5,000 and you have to apply because they "actively seek out leading thinkers and doers across a wide range of fields". Super 'sclusive!

This evenings TEDx event brought together 4 presenters and was topically focused on sound. There was a vocal coach who spoke poignantly about the magical ability of the human voice. How our own voices uniquely reverberate through our bodies, and in this capacity serve as instruments for healing! I came to rely upon singing as a means to get me through trials and tribulations in my own life. How both the words and melody combine to provide affirmation of self amidst chaos. Singing is a means to both acknowledge one's autonomy while remaining connected to the larger whole of humanity. Was a great talk to hear given.

The next talk was given by a gentleman named Toki Wright. He is a bit of a local celebrity; respected rapper, activist and most recently, professor of hip-hop at McNally-Smith School of Music. I was a good three beers deep by the time his talk came around; so I don't remember much of it. I think he talked about how music can provide both a means to escape immediate surroundings and relate to other stories.

I met Toki many years ago, I can't remember if he dated a friend's sister or not; they were involved in Yo!TheMovement for a time together. Along with a few other local notables. Either way, we also shared a teacher from the University of Minnesota General College. A formative individual who taught a class called Multicultural Relations. It was an introduction to anything and everything activism, and raised my own expectations for Toki's empathic capacity. Needless to say, time and again he has disappointed me. Without regaling the negativity; up next was actual music: a flute, a cello, and a beatboxer! That was worth the price of admission to me.

Lastly, for me at least, was Dr Roger Dumas! My old high school computer science lab attendant. I know, I have no respect for people it would seem. His talk was basically a pitch for people to listen to the records again, because the static inherent to their recording actually facilitated a more complete listening experience, as affirmed by science. Not really a mind-bender, but sufficient to make the rich, mostly white, people in the audience feel nostalgic for the time-being.

Now onto what was interesting, to me at least. I met the kid of a VP of the McPhail School, and his mother! Sat right next to them too. Later in the evening the kid and I spoke. Naturally the conversation delved into politics, in which I asserted the idea that most people of our generation thought that marijuana should be legalized. To which he countered, for medicinal use only. I was a bit taken aback; where the hell did this conservatism come from, I wondered?!? I should also mention, he worked at the school as well.

So let's get this story straight; daddy is a VP at the school, and in all likelyhood, because of this, you've got a comfy job; wherein which you think that marijuana should only be accessed by doctor affirmed patients. Sounds like uneducated privilege born of inexperience to me! Meh, moving on.

I also met a Colombiana. She is a student at the University who sought an opportunity to volunteer; and connect with a local academically minded scene. A pleasant individual to be sure; I was quick to discern she was wise to the game Minnesota plays. I was a dangerous character with which to be seen fraternizing. As a brown male, often alone in large groups of people, I'm more often than not seen as a threat, based purely on stereotype. Later, when we exchanged Twitter handles, her white friend was beside her; also a student. The friend seemed fairly taken-aback when I mentioned that I actually had a relationship with President of the University as I involved myself with the state legislative processes last spring, and have been active for quite sometime at the school as well. Damn, foiled the stereotype again, had not a coherent channel for them to turn!

Here is the kicker - on her, the Colombiana's, name placard, the topic about which people were encouraged to ask her about was "Columbia". Yup, you read that right! What was infuriating is that, rather than apologize, or seek to amend the oversight, she was told that it was spelled that way for the phonetic ease of Minnesotans!!! HOLY WHAT THE WHITE ARROGANCE!!

Overall, the evening was a success, I got drunk and have a few more funny stories to tell. I discerned that Toki is a pompous putz; though, as in his words, "everyone has a good side." Minnesota is a vain culture, and navigating it means negotiating inflated egos. I'll let the rest of the context slide for the time being, and conclude this post by reminding folks that Colombia, the country, is spelled with an "o"; and that it is incredibly offensive to attempt to justify the misspelling of one's homeland.

Better luck next time TEDxMinneapolis!

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