Roberta Antonaci, Policy and Campaigns Manager for Our Bright Future, tells us about her experience at TEDxTeen.
On the 24 June, TEDxTeen took place at O2 Arena in South-East London. TED is a non-profit organisation devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. Independently run TEDx events take place in more than 100 languages. I was thrilled to join one of these which gave young people from around the world a platform to share their incredible stories.
It was a super inspiring day filled with positive energy and food for thought. The main theme of the event was “Bold moves”. How do you change the world around you or inside you and make a bold move? Easy question, isn’t it?
So many speakers shared their inspiring experiences. For example, Zuhal Sultan talked to us about her amazing adventure of founding the first national youth orchestra as a teenager in the middle of a war in Iraq. As she said, we speak in music every single day of our life and music can bridge gaps and unite people beyond language, ethnic or religious barriers.
The bold move for Tyler Dunning was a personal one. Tyler lost his best friend Nate in a terror attack. The news plunged him into grief, anger and self-medication. His only comfort? Nature. He decided to visit all 59 US national parks. And then, little by little, he started to let other people in and, finally, he was able to say goodbye. Nature has a huge power. At Our Bright Future, we experience what nature can do for all of us every single day. From improving our health and wellbeing to giving us the opportunity to learn new skills and connecting with our community. Seeing this recognised in a powerful talk was emotional!
Another message that I got from the day is that it is important to accept that we are not perfect. Things sometimes don’t go the way we would like them to go. Our failures can be unavoidable and could even be a source of inspiration. For example, Claudia Vulliamy shared her story of how, after receiving a letter of rejection from Oxford University, she turned it into a piece of artwork. Her mum shared the picture via Twitter and her tweet went viral. Or Nile Rodgers, famous American musician and record producer, who told us how the song Le Freak came about from the rejection of his pop band, The Chic, by the famous Studio 54. Le Freak scored number one on the disco charts for seven weeks and the single achieved sales of seven million!
What uplifted my spirit was this bold idea of being open to diversity which linked many of the talks. Ziad Ahmed, American-Muslim passionate social justice activist, asks us to look each other in the eyes and ask apparently simple questions like “how are you” and “who are you”. He invited us to stop living in a bubble made up of people who think all like us, challenge our stereotypes and start a conversation.
Amelia Halls asked us to normalise how we talk about mental health. Being mentally ill is not being weak. She is one of the 300 thousands people suffering each year in the UK from depression and she decided to use the healing power of art to stop herself from self-harming. She decided to turn her body into a canvas.
And finally, Lewis Hine, with his inspiring story moved me to tears. At 17 months old, he was diagnosed with a brain tumour and he has had brain surgery thirteen times to date.
As he said in his video, viewed more than 20 million times on Facebook, “disability isn’t a bad thing, but keeping silent about it is”. Lewis set up a project called Friend Finder, to help other young people with long term illness who had spent a lot of time in hospitals and found it hard to make friends. Everyone needs a friend. And it is so exciting to think about how Our Bright Future projects are making this happen. It’s fantastic to see how the young people joining the projects are coming together and making friends.
And here is my last thought. Bold moves come in all shapes and sizes, and you can start changing the world from a simple bold move. You can start from just a conversation or a small positive change in your community and your local environment. That is a bold move!
All the 31 Our Bright Future projects have been bold in pushing their boundaries and aiming high. Together we are creating a bold movement and I am so excited at what we can achieve together in the next years.