Sixth Annual TEDxUCSB Event Spotlights Diversity

Photo Courtesy of TEDxUCSB

Alexander Ortiz
Staff Writer

On Saturday, UCSB held its sixth consecutive TEDXUCSB event, spotlighting diverse perspectives on inclusivity with this year’s theme, “Declaration of Interdependence.”

Speakers included UCSB students, alumni, professors, and two Forbes 30 Under 30 CEOs, all representing different walks of life.  TEDXUCSB wasn’t simply presentations–as seen through online TED Talks–but also a space for discussion between audience members and speakers.

In an interview with The Bottom Line, Tara Habibi, co-chair of TEDXUCSB and third-year economics major, explained the structure of the event: “Since I’ve been involved, we always have about seven to ten speakers and a 100 person per cap, which is nice because it keeps the event pretty intimate,” Habibi said. “The intimacy of the event is one of the pride points for us and the way that people are able to connect here.”

The event had discussion intermissions (catering included), where the audience could discuss ideas and take pictures with the TEDXUCSB prop.

The first to speak was UCSB Professor of Sociology Victor Rios, who spoke on the topic of toxic masculinity. He shared his personal struggles with being raised to be hyper masculine, stressing the importance of understanding gender inequality that begins, according to Rio, with young male socialization.

The following presentations continued to have different breadths of knowledge from young minds. Such was the case with first-year Sanjana Rajesh, a pre-economics major who discussed experiences of colorism in the Indian community.

Another first-year speaker, pre-biology major Marissa Millwater, discussed ways to have discussions with family members with conflicting political viewpoints, using the example of the “outspoken uncle at family gatherings.”

The CEO lineup included Reyna Montay, founder of Aliento, an organization that helps create community artwork reflecting the lives of undocumented immigrants, and UCSB alumni Will Shafroth, founder of The National Park Foundation. Also speaking was Yihui Elvis Zhang, founder of Oxy2, a business focused on clean air technology for the air polluted areas of China.

Chicago native and founder of The Dovetail Project, Sheldon Smith was also among the CEOs that spoke. The Dovetail Project provides support for young fathers through life and parenting skills as well as financial and educational support.

Sheldon spoke of his personal struggles as a youth handling his father’s abandonment and his own struggle as a parent. Smith discussed that, while negative issues of fatherhood are stereotypically related to black men, they affect all identities.

“No matter what color you are, or what community you live in, and whether you have money or not, your dynamics with your father or mother would be good or bad,” Smith said. “You can’t alter that based on wealth or race…several of my mentors have been extremely wealthy who struggled with being a great father.”

UCSB English Professor Felice Blake also discussed ideas of racial inequality. Her topic of inclusion was in relation to prisons as a system of racial segregation. Blake spotlights prison literature as a method for spreading ideas from socially outcasted communities.

Continuing the discussion on social outcasting was Elmer Flores, a fourth-year, English and sociology major, who gave examples on how language is used to separate members of society. “The biggest thing about my talk is the effect labels have on people,” Flores told The Bottom Line. “And in this case, the labels associated with immigration and immigrants.”

Themes of inclusion and social justice are not always the case for all TED Talks.  As Tara Habib said,”This year it worked out that the theme is more social justice-like, and maybe it’s fitting with our campus and national climate. I think it’s really great and it adds to the empowerment that we feel as audience members.”