Updated: Nov 22
So many people have asked how it was that I became part of TEDx Gramercy, so I decided to write this short piece on how it came to be.
During the Fall semester of 2021 an email came across my desk offering an opportunity to produce the next TEDx Gramercy. It was sent to professors for their students, via Baruch College in New York City. And so I shared it. I wasn’t sure anyone would take up this opportunity because so many of my students work while going to school, but one of my students did.
Introducing Monique Peres. Not only was she working three jobs and completing her undergraduate degree, but little did she know that a couple of weeks before finals she would be called in for her interview for citizenship. Undeterred, she rose to the occasion on all fronts and did the interview, graduated, recruited volunteers, secured a venue, risked her own earnings, selected speakers and managed the process to the end. From registering a business to getting the signs, she led the team to a sold-out show. It has been no easy task, but she has handled it with a level of leadership that inspires me even after all of the brilliant leaders I have met over the years.
Each step of the way she would say, “It’s a learning experience.” It was a five-steps-forward, three-steps-back process. She had people back out. She had volunteers commit and then not pull through. She has negotiated through the complexities of working with a public institution and she has hashed out details with speakers over and over again. And she has handled it with aplomb.
This is my missive to her.
Thank you for being a change maker Ms. Peres. I can tell the world will be in good hands with you as one of our leaders. I am proud as your professor, inspired by you as a colleague and grateful to you for rising to the occasion by taking on such an unknown task. You never gave up despite the challenges of such a production. You exemplified the theme Dare to Be Different by elevating other’s voices in the name of messages in which you believe and that is testament to your greatness as a leader.
I can’t wait to see what you choose to do next, but whatever it is, and team would be lucky to have you.
Look who is creating opportunities now.
Countless people listened and gave me feedback and I can’t express how grateful I am to each and every one.
Thank you to the team of professionals and friends that was part of making this come together Karen Lee for designing such beautiful iceberg icons for the slides. Nancy Elder for coaching me over a hump, Heather D’Agastino for connecting me, Amy Khoo for always showing up, Courtney Kellerman for your enthusiasm, Tim Robb for your presence and for getting it, Noel Arikian for your perspective, Alicia Zarou Scanlon for listening over and over again, Katina Papson for reminding me of the importance of Story, Emily Anderson for endeavoring to inject some humor into my seriousness, Kathy Engstrom for sitting in that car with me, Vince Santilli for investing yourself into the content, Melissa Berman for making sense of it, Jennifer Abrahams for focusing on my words, Mary Jane Zarou for hearing me, Michael Thatcher for giving me that space, Krysia Waldron for giving me that face, The Hot Toddies for holding the space, my brother Wayne for tolerating the background noise and my father Nick for caring, Steven Berg for creating my aesthetic and connecting artists, Monique B. for doing my hair under less than ideal circumstances, Cici Barnes for doing my make up, Stephanie Nascimento for contributing to the field of Intercultural Communications through your work with CARTUS corporation and being here today, and Carolyn Ryffel for being the ultimate intercultural mentor for whom a person could ask.
Thank you to all of those who made the effort to come: Mac McCarty, Maryam Filsoof (while fiercely advocating for Iranian rights), Pethio Yawanis, Nathalie Sann-Renault, Patricia Georgiou, Sean Dubberke, Lisa Bartle, Courtney Kellerman, Alex Robert, The Kramers, Mala Tsantilas, Krysia Waldron and my immediate family: Rhett-Blake and Théo for being there and Jackson for listening and being independent enough to create the environment in which this needed to grow, and finally my husband Drew, for halting the presses so that this could take priority above all others.
A big shout out to all of the volunteers:
And then to my fellow speakers. It was an honor to be in your company and I look forward to continuing to learn through your important work. May all people gain new perspectives through your unique lenses.
Hector Guadalupe - Founder of A Second U Foundation - Reimagining Social Entrepreneurship in America
Rae Ceretto - Filmmaker and advocate for women's and refugee's rights.
Glenn Petersen - Glenn teaches anthropology at Baruch and has a pretty unique story on advocating for a region in the Pacific against the U.S., who planned on colonizing the region of Micronesia.
Sun Yi - I Never Thought of It That Way (creating digital content)
Nadia Jagessar - Indo-Guyanese entrepreneur who starred on the Netflix show Indian Matchmaking.
Surinder Singh, Ph.D. - Vertical Farmer, Humanitarian
Jesse Haines - Director of Grow With Google
Kahlil Greene - GenZ historian
Matthew Bull – Built one of South Africa’s biggest and most creatively awarded advertising agencies
Keep your eyes open for part two: The Invisible Culture of TEDx Gramercy | Part 2 - The Cutting Board