“New Orleans holds the kind of story so many communities around the world can relate to — one of hardship and triumph, community and reinvention.” Kelly STOETZEL, TED content director
For years, New Orleans visual artist and entrepreneur Brandan Odums has been an avid fan of the popular conference TED, where global leaders in a variety of fields share their ideas in 20-minute talks that are broadcast across the Internet.
Next month, he’ll be the one doing the presenting, as one of 20 scientists, designers, artists, technologists and other creative thinkers who will converge on New Orleans to share their ideas with 400 middle and high school students as part of the 3rd annual TEDYouth event.
“New Orleans holds the kind of story so many communities around the world can relate to — one of hardship and triumph, community and reinvention,” said Kelly Stoetzel, TED content director and TEDYouth curator.
“As we searched for a global hub for this year’s TEDYouth, that grit — combined with the city’s commitment to education reform and rebuilding — helped make it a natural choice.”
The conference, which is free and will be held Nov. 16 at the Civic Theatre, is open to students who fill out an application online. According to Cloe Shasha, a member of the TED content and creative team, the youth event offers the same caliber of speakers as other TED events, but with shorter talks and presentations that are more story-based and designed to inspire students to find and explore their passions.
Shasha said TED held its first two annual youth events in New York City, but wanted to bring the event to a different location in order to connect with more people.
This year’s event has the theme “Spark,” and Shasha said the creative energy and growth that New Orleans is experiencing made it an attractive locale for the conference.
In addition to speakers coming in from across the country, a handful of the presenters are from New Orleans.
Odums, 28, said he was elated when TED offered him a chance to speak at the event. “It was one of those invitations I was never expecting,” he said.
A graduate of Edna Karr High School and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, Odums is the founder of 2-cent entertainment, which produces creative and educational content for a youth demographic.
He is also known for his work on “Project Be,” in which he painted murals of civil rights heroes on the walls of the abandoned Florida housing project.
Odums said one of the things he hopes to get across to kids who attend the event is the power of their voices in the digital age.
“I want them to understand that they don’t need to wait until they have a uniform or are a politician to effectively change their community,” he said.
Other New Orleans presenters are: Sonny Lee, founder of the non-profit Son of a Saint, which aids fatherless boys; Lolis Eric Elie, a writer for the HBO show “Treme”; Tulane student and baseball researcher Cam Perron; and local slam poet Justin Lamb.
Shasha said that in addition to the official youth event being held in New Orleans, cities across the country will be holding TEDxYouthDay events at the same time. Those interested in registering for the conference can do so at www.ted.com/tedyouth.