Duron Chavis

Coordinator , McDonough Community Garden

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Should people be uninvited from TED talks due to not being Nonprofit?

Recently a colleague in the food justice community was invited and then later uninvited from TEDXMANHATTAN sponsored by the Glynwood Instittue for Sustainable Food and Farming due to not being a nonprofit - despite her having a fiscal sponsor. To hear the sisters open letter read it here:


Do you think that you should be uninvited from a TED talk due to not being a nonprofit?

  • Jan 11 2013: As a person lacking color, I notice that people of color who do not convert to the white way are often marginalized. I / we often do not know what to do about blocking or reversing this because there are no reasonably accessible options in front of us. (Reversing marginalization is worth taking more strenuous measures, I’m just saying that it is easy to get paralyzed even if sympathetic.) With this situation, we seem to have had an accessible means to counteract marginalization - listen to another voice (apparently an accomplished one) and think it over without needing to take action on it, just consider this voice among others. So it’s disappointing. But wait, Ms. Fields (great name for a farmer type) was selected to present and then unselected. That moves the dial from disappointment to feelings of betrayal and perhaps hostility.
    I don’t wish this controversy on the good people at Glynwood who have gone to the trouble to make something good like TEDx Manhattan happen. But . . . here it is. I believe that you are big enough to handle it. If you are not used to talking about racial issues without being offensive, then it’s time you/we learned – this is the least that people lacking color can do.
    If it’s really a discomfort in having people talk about race, then just say that. “We’re uncomfortable.” It will make you look foolish, but that’s usually the first step in trying to learn another culture. Ask Ms. Fields if she can help with translating the culture and the anguish & anger at being marginalized – could be wrong, but I bet she knows a lot about helping people talk about race. People probably ask her to speak on behalf of black people frequently. Getting more comfortable in talking about racial inequalities would be a great advance in any area of endeavor, including among the food system warriors.
    Where is the intellectual curiosity? Where is the entrepreneurial spirit when it comes to leading the way in giving voice to the marginalized?
  • Jan 28 2013: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyDmu0njvoQ Let's hear what Tanya has to say...
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    Jan 16 2013: As the organizer of TEDxManhattan, I am deeply sorry that Karen Washington has decided to withdraw her speaking slot on the program on February 16th. Ms. Washington was asked many months ago to speak about racism and disparity in the food system and had been given an open stage to speak as she saw fit. The TEDxManhattan organizers believe Ms. Washington has a powerful voice that should, and needs, to be heard – we are sorry that she has chosen to silence herself.

    We are also sorry that Ms. Fields was not willing to work toward a speaking slot for the 2014 TEDxManhattan event. After re-evaluation, the organizers felt she wasn’t quite ready for this particular type of event but were more than willing to hold a spot open for her in the future.

    We take seriously the right of all people to have access to fresh, healthy, nutritious and affordable food and are deeply saddened that this issue will now not be addressed at TEDxManhattan “Changing the Way We Eat”.

    Diane Hatz
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    Jan 16 2013: Karen Washington withdraws her acceptance to speak in solidarity with Ms. Fields

    Karen Young-Washington
    Today I have redrawn my participation in the TED X event scheduled for Feb 16th. The only regret I have is that I should have had done it sooner.
    Tanya Fields was also asked to participate in the event to give her take on the racist system of marginalized people in the South Bronx as well as the struggles she has endured to provide quality food for her family. Tanya called me last month to say that she was dropped from the event because she did not have a 501C3. I found out later it was based solely on hearsay. That people were afraid of what she might say or do. How many times have we been the victims of hearsay?
    I had to look deep within myself as a black women; who in the very beginning of my activism was portrayed as loud, ignorant, ghetto and boisterous and see the parallel. That was in the 1980’s, this is 2013. The fear of a strong Black woman persists. I stand by Tanya in her effort to tell it like it is. Why must we be asked to sugar coat the evils of racism, or teach people not of color how to behave or react?
    This was a wakeup call for me (thank you Beatriz) and so many other people who have been following the thread of this conversation along social media.
  • Jan 11 2013: I was a TEDx speaker in 2011 at TEDx Manhattan. I am a farmer who has been battling factory farms in my neighborhood and beyond for approximately 17 years. As a factory farming and sustainable food activist, I have presented to audiences at conferences across the United States and even overseas. To the best of my knowledge and from my own experiences, the head event organizer usually has the final the call on issues whatever they may be. When a speaking presentation fails to pan out for me, I also do the next best thing and turn to focus my energy on the endless work this issue creates for us. I admire anyone who is out there employing new ideas that will change our broken food system to one that is socially responsible and morally just. For the record, Ms. Hatz has mentored and inspired me all these years with her out- of -the -box ideas and phenomenal work. "Changing the Way We Eat" continues to educate and empower the public to stand against corporations that destroy the integrity of our food and bully farmers and citizens in both rural and urban communities. I know because I continue to receive positive feedback about "Changing the Way We Eat."
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      Jan 11 2013: white priviledge: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3Xe1kX7Wsc - does this explain the overwhelming abundance of people of european descent in comparison to the one african american speaker who will get the chance to speak at tedxmanhattan? Or is is just white folks who are working to change the way we eat? If there are people of other ethnicities why isnt it balanced? Is that what inclusion looks like?
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    Jan 11 2013: Are you saying they decided to disinvite her because she wasnt a good fit? Because the stated reason was because she wasnt non profit. Are you saying that maybe Hatz wasnt being honest in the reason given and used the nonprofit thing as an excuse? that is dishonest. If it wasn't the right time, then why invite her in the first place?

    " The simple truth might be that she is just not qualified to speak at this level." wow - that is a bold assertion. What would make you say that? What do the qualifications look like? Does that have anything to do with her non profit status?
  • Jan 11 2013: Wow -- after reading the 'open letter' seems to me that Ms. Fields is blowing things way out of proportion. This all happened back in December and now she's making an issue of it? I suspect she doesn't have the full story..this isn't about her it's about what's going to make good conference.

    It's very common for conferences to change the speaker line-up. It happens all of the time. The TEDx organizers are charged with creating a total view of the topic and have to consider lots of variables in designing the sessions and featured speakers. It's balancing act to be sure. Has Tanya considered that it wasn't the right time for her topic or that the topic wasn't a great fit with the other topics and speakers?

    She says she was offered an opportunity to speak next year but she turned it down and instead chose to write a public letter attacking the TEDX Conference organizers. That's personal pride more than concern for the issues at hand. I saw several of the speakers at last year's event and they were AMAZING! Kudos to the organizers. Maybe Ms. Fields isn't ready for this type of venue or exposure? The simple truth might be that she is just not qualified to speak at this level.

    Looking through the speaker roster, there are other speakers of color...it's clearly not a racial issue as Ms. Fields asserts.

    I am a long-time supporter of The Glynnwood Institute and have followed Diane Hatz's career in the sustainable food movement. Diane is an inclusive, intelligent person and I have never seen any hint of racism in her. Maybe Ms. Hatz handled Tanya Fields too gingerly if she felt she wasn't ready for TEDX yet. Unfortunately that has created a scorpion backed into a corner who is trying to cast a pall over what promises to be a fabulous, informative, transformational and educational event.

    Keep you eye on the end game, Ms. Fields, and air your personal issues privately without casting aspersions while attempting to taint the image of a great event.
  • Jan 11 2013: I have known Diane Hatz for many years as a tireless advocate of the sustainable food movement. She is a fair and inclusive person. I do not know specific details of the decision to uninvite you but I know Diane Hatz does not take lightly a decision that will upset or hurt someone's feelings. What I know for sure is that it is not because of your race, community or economic status. I can understand why you are hurt but it would be effective to try and work this matter out with the Institute and person who you have questions for instead of making assumptions. I think it is also important to remember that being white does not automatically equal affluence or having the benefit of an affluent upbringing.
  • Jan 11 2013: Your question is general. Decisions like this are very specific.

    Another example of a question that is too general: Should people be uninvited from TED talks due to the content of their talk?

    Also, the specific instance you site was not a TED talk but a TEDx talk, and there are important differences.
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    Jan 11 2013: I am confused by the scenario here. The rules for TEDx events (linked on this site) stipulate things like that speakers cannot be paid for speaking and that no one can use the stage to promote themselves/business ventures, and so forth. So those requirements are not negotiable by an organizer who wants to use the TED name. TEDx organizers have a lot of latitude, it seems, in which people they invite to speak subject to broad requirements of the kind stipulated in the link.

    Obviously there have been TED speakers who are not non-profits. Wasn't Mark Zuckerberg a speaker? Anthony Robbins?

    So the question here is should a TEDx organizer be able to define its conference as "non-profit organizations working on food justice" or should they be required also to include for profit organizations working on food justice?

    When I read the letter in the link above, it makes it appear the author believes she was actually excluded for other reasons than non-profit status, like where she was educated.