After three reschedules and 1,164 hours of preparation, TEDxPortland returned for a spectacular tenth anniversary held at the Moda Center in Portland, OR on Saturday. Many people gathered for a whole day of inspirational talks and music performances. TEDxPortland was a reminder to every one of the facts that “E” in “TED” stands for Entertainment Agen Toto Macau. The event featured a version of Digable Planets Death Cab for Cutie, Portugal. The Man is The Man, a Jimi Hendrix tribute to Jimi featuring his close friend Tyrone Hendrix (Prince, Stevie Wonder, Allen Stone) and his son Tikylo, Jimmy Russel, Andre Zapata, and Pink Martini.
TEDx events are organized by TEDx independently within the spirit of the TED mission to study and find “ideas worth spreading,” and Saturday’s TEDxPortland event was “the largest indoor TEDx the world has ever seen.” The event was a mix of 15 TED talks and live music performances that began around 9.30 a.m. and featured Portland spoke word performer Asia Greene-Rhodes.
Innovative author of children’s books Jelani Memory delivered a TED presentation on her A Kid’s Book About series and is followed by a talk by Amy Wolff, founder of the Don’t Stop Fighting movement, and Eric Tran, Ph.D. discussing the possibility of a cure for cancer that relies on the body’s immune system. Author Jordan Dinwiddie, who received an astounding six nominations for speaking on occasion, talked about fanaticism and fandom before the event’s host David Rae introduced the first music program.
“We needed to focus on the entertainment aspect of TED because we haven’t had that,” he declared before announcing, “It’s gonna get loud,” as Digable Planets made their way to the stage. The sound was louder as the hip-hop band began their first single, but the sudden change was greeted by the audience, many of whom jumped and danced. The changing lights transformed the conference into a concert, and after the third song, the crowd was assembled on the right of the stage where the group was performing.
“That’s the earliest time we did ‘Nickel Bag of Funk,'” Ishmael Reginald Butler joked, “But we can’t tell that you’re singing like it’s midnight. I love it, Man.”
Digable Planets left the audience with a positive vibe and concluded their short but powerful performance with their smash “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat).”
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Then, the anonymous poet Atticus discussed the possibility of achieving success without fame and the challenges it brings in what he said would be the last instances he stepped out in public with masks. He noted that in the previous 40 years, the most commonly used solution to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” has changed between “astronaut,” to “YouTuber,” to “TikTok star,” the mysterious wordsmith showed an avatar on the internet with a smudge-free, maskless face while pondering the potential of technology to help spread the voice without any fame.
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Host David Rae then announced a late feature to the show–an interview with an independent politician Betsy Johnson, who is running for Oregon Governor. The discussion started well initially as Johnson and Rae sought to reach a middle ground between the extremes of politics; however, the conversation quickly descended into chaos after the audience repeatedly yelled at the interviewee to discuss guns in light of the recent shooting that occurred in Uvalde, TX.
A crowd yelled, “Ask about guns!” and in unison until the host said, “We’re not gonna go there.” The host then went to Betsy and asked her, “Do you want to go? We were aware that there were going to be fireworks. I’m going to step back.”
After a tense moment, Johnson returned to her remarks on Oregon’s inadequate mental health system. The audience reacted with protests and charges that she was “dodging the question” and demanded to have “fewer guns.”
Johnson was calm despite the verbal laughter from the crowd when the discussion ended. Rae was adamant about his decision to hold the interview right after the event and said, “It’s been a tough couple of weeks, and I’m not sure how to interpret the issue as being a Canadian. It’s an American issue, and we’re not going to resolve it during this debate.” Rae added, “We would talk to Tina or Tobias [the other contenders for Oregon GovernorBut we don’t have the time to debate, which is also not KGW.”
TEDxPortland apologized for hosting the event in a tweet on social media claiming the event was “not the right decision.”
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The program was able to take “a severe right-hand turn” and ended with an interview with Meow Wolf co-founder Vince Kadlubek about psychedelics, imagination, and creative thinking. Kadlubek spoke about the surprise popularity Meow Wolf experienced as the experimental art group has created permanent interactive installations across the country, including Houston, Texas, and Dallas.
“I just wanna say I am proud to be in Texas and be a safe space for diverse thought,” he added about Texas’s controversial ban on abortion.
He told the tale of the way Meow Wolf came to be with the assistance of Game of Thrones author George RR Martin.
“I know you don’t know me very well,” he said to the writer over the call, “but there’s this bowling alley, and if you buy it, we’re gonna do something sick.”
Kadlubek continued the discussion of his belief in the powers of imagination and how it can be diminished by the growth of a persona in time. We do not exist due to what we have accomplished; he stated that we are who we become through our actions and choices.
He ended by mentioning the John Hopkins investigation that demonstrated the potential of psychedelic mushrooms as an effective treatment for depression. He also was awed by Oregon for paving the way in psychedelic therapies.
“Oregon, great f–king job,” the governor said about the recent passage measure Measure 109. It allows psilocybin for therapeutic purposes, which is the active ingredient in magic mushrooms.
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Following an emotional TED talk given by Regan Parker about the need to discuss miscarriages and lost pregnancies openly. One of the most anticipated day shows was scheduled to conclude the first part of the day. The tribute was to Jimi Hendrix by his blood and flesh, Portland drummer Tyrone Hendrix. The show featured photos of Jimi taken by a photographer for rock and Portlander Ed Caraeff.
With his son Tikylo, guitar player Jimmy Russel, and bassist Andre Zapata, Tyrone performed 13 minutes of Jimi classics. The set began with a psychedelic rendition of the national anthem sung by Jimmy Russel. The group played “Foxy Lady,” “Purple Haze,” and “All Along The Watchtower” with a backdrop featuring powerful photos sourced from Caraeff’s archives. The celebration of the family was led by Tyrone along with his brother Tokyo. The latter performed parts on drums and percussion during the show and proved that the Hendrix family is as talented as ever. The group gathered around the X in the middle of the stage as the audience gave applause at the show’s close.
After a one-and-a-half-hour time break for lunch, Session Two commenced with an acoustic trio set from Death Cab for Cutie that included “Crooked Teeth,” “Soul Meets Body,” as well as some tracks from the new album Asphalt Meadows.
In the wake of Death Cab for Cutie, Emily Nestor gave a nuanced talk on the concept of sexual consent. Nestor was the first to publicly voice accusations of sexual harassment by Harvey Weinstein. Still, in her speech, she acknowledged that sexual misconduct could be committed by anyone, no matter who they are. “No one is exempt,” she stated, which includes herself.
The speaker concluded her speech with some guidelines for practical use that comprised the following 1.) I don’t know what someone else would like better than I know, and 2) I should not react to the rejection by expressing anger or hurt since the person who is being rejected may not feel secure telling the truth about their desires. If there’s a backlash, 3.) when there is a conflict in messages, then you should seek consent, and four) do not slut or shame people for being open about what they would like.
Vitor Bastos followed with an inspirational speech in which he revealed before the audience as HIV positive. He stated that removing the risk of HIV is simply an issue of removing the stigma associated with the disease so that people can get the proper treatment. “It’s not science that’s in the way. It’s stigma,” he said. He was given applause after his presentation.
Taylor Stewart followed with a talk on the long history of race discrimination in Oregon. Taylor Stewart spoke about his efforts to reconcile the state’s complicated history by honoring the victim of a lynching Alonzo Tucker. Police executed the latter in Coos Bay, OR, following a false accusation of assault on a woman in 1902.
Portland’s own Portugal. The Man brought the atmosphere to a higher level by delivering a stunning performance. The band’s haunting voice echoed throughout the venue as psychedelic liquids played on the arena’s gigantic LED screens. The audience remained in place during the performance, even as it dwindled in energy; however, all eyes were on the band during what they described being “a cozy little hometown show for us.” The group played a set that comprised “Live In The Moment,” “And I,” “Purple Yellow Red and Blue,” “Senseless,” and “Feel It Still.”
Portugal. The Man also participated in this event, helping make three exclusive TEDxPortland Ice cream flavors in collaboration with Portland’s most renowned gourmet Ice Cream store, Salt & Straw. Free scoops of ice cream were offered to guests at the close, and two complimentary drinks, courtesy of the local patron Rogue Brewery, who also made the celebratory “Ideas Ale” for the occasion.
Writer and stripper Viva Las Vegas gave the following TED talk on sex as a business for women and stripping as an art. “Think of every art museum you’ve been to. There are nudes from every culture and period of history,” she said. The intelligent dancer was a hit in Portland, which is home to the most strip club per person than another city.
Improv comedy group Broke Gravy performed next and helped to increase the enthusiasm of the audience. Usually, three-piece, but the group was a duo since one was ill at home, suffering from COVID. The vendors handed out free cans of Rogue beer as they performed the story of scientists who discovered Black blood cell clones. “They’re doing most of the work!” one researcher shouted as he looked into an image of a microscope. “And somehow, they’re keeping the pace! The white ones aren’t able to catch up.”
Rukiya Adams concluded the day’s lectures with a spirited yet difficult review of the city’s political history and the present. She spoke about the city’s efforts to reconcile the deportation of Japanese Americans during World War II through the establishment of Portland’s Japanese Garden. She noted that the city moved all of the Oregon Zoo to make room for the new project while the black population was being forced out of the historical Albina neighborhood to allow a way to build Moda Center. Moda Center where she spoke.
Portland jazz group Pink Martini concluded the show as most audience members left to enjoy a complimentary glass of beer and Ice cream. The people who waited in line to get refreshments were left out of an unforgettable performance by the renowned brand led by the pianist Thomas Lauderdale. The singer China Forbes dazzled the audience with her striking red dress. At the same time, the group performed original songs, including “Hey Eugene” and “Sympathique, Je Ne Veux Pas Travailler,” that was instrumental in establishing the band in Europe as it was a massive success in France.
Pink Martini’s performance highlighted the spontaneous conga line that swept across the floor, an enthralling rendition from Edna Vazquez, and a stirring version of “Tomorrow” from Annie performed by America’s Got Talent star, Jimmy Herrod. Thomas Lauderdale did not hold up his opinions about the reality show.
“When you pay your employees $25 per day, it’s not acceptable. If you claim to give the gift of $1 million, but you offer $25,000 increments over any number of years, you’re an utter f—ing mess,” he said.
TEDxPortland was concluded at around 5:30 p.m. after a lengthy enjoyable, informative, and educational day. While it was not without its own set of hiccups, the biggest indoor TEDx yet was a roaring event, and the organizers said that plans are already in process for the year 11. We hope it doesn’t take 1,164 days to organize this time around.