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Talks to celebrate Black History Month
Insightful talks that offer fresh, thoughtful perspectives on Black identity.
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Can art amend history?
12 minutes 42 seconds
Artist Titus Kaphar makes paintings and sculptures that wrestle with the struggles of the past while speaking to the diversity and advances of the present. In an unforgettable live workshop, Kaphar takes a brush full of white paint to a replica of a 17th-century Frans Hals painting, obscuring parts of the composition and bringing its hidden story into view. There's a narrative coded in art like this, Kaphar says. What happens when we shift our focus and confront unspoken truths?
T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison
The most powerful woman you've never heard of
13 minutes 8 seconds
Everyone's heard of Martin Luther King Jr. But do you know the woman Dr. King called "the architect of the civil rights movement," Septima Clark? The teacher of some of the generation's most legendary activists -- like Rosa Parks, Diane Nash, Fannie Lou Hamer and thousands more -- Clark laid out a blueprint for change-making that has stood the test of time. Now T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison, the cofounders of GirlTrek, are taking a page from Clark's playbook to launch a health revolution in the US -- and get one million women walking for justice. (This ambitious idea is part of the Audacious Project, TED's initiative to inspire and fund global change.)
Julieanna L. Richardson
The mission to safeguard Black history in the US
15 minutes 13 seconds
Black history in the US is rich, profound -- and at risk of being lost forever, if not for the monumental efforts of Julieanna L. Richardson. As the founder of The HistoryMakers -- the largest national archive of African American video-oral history -- Richardson shares some of the unknown and incredible legacies of Black America, highlighting the importance of documenting and preserving the past for future generations.
Channing Gerard Joseph
How Black queer culture shaped history
8 minutes 9 seconds
Names like Bayard Rustin, Frances Thompson and William Dorsey Swann have been largely erased from US history, but they and other Black queer leaders played central roles in monumental movements like emancipation, civil rights and LGBTQ+ pride, among others. In this tribute to forgotten icons, queer culture historian and TED Fellow Channing Gerard Joseph shares their little-known stories, connecting the origins of drag in the 1880s to the present day and exploring the awesome power to choose how we define ourselves.
The origins of blackface and Black stereotypes
6 minutes 42 seconds
If you're wondering why blackface -- mimicking people of African descent via stereotypes and makeup-darkened skin -- is a big deal, then perhaps a little history lesson can help demystify the outcry. Dwan Reece, curator at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, explains how this practice permeates the American psyche and culture (in theater, music, books and beyond) and why it's not simply harmless fun, but a legacy of oppression.
The urgency of intersectionality
18 minutes 39 seconds
Now more than ever, it's important to look boldly at the reality of race and gender bias -- and understand how the two can combine to create even more harm. Kimberlé Crenshaw uses the term "intersectionality" to describe this phenomenon; as she says, if you're standing in the path of multiple forms of exclusion, you're likely to get hit by both. In this moving talk, she calls on us to bear witness to this reality and speak up for victims of prejudice.
The radical, revolutionary resilience of Black joy
11 minutes 33 seconds
In the face of trauma, happiness is resilience: a revolutionary act of thriving despite all odds, rather than wilting or surrendering. Community organizer and activist Miracle Jones offers a heart-to-heart meditation on the role of joy as a form of radical resistance, survival and protection for Black folks in the US and across the world. A warm reminder to embrace the guiding light of hope in the presence of darkness.
The Black history of twerking -- and how it taught me self-love
13 minutes 40 seconds
Twerking is mainstream now ... but do you know where it came from? Superstar Lizzo traces booty shaking to a traditional West African dance and tells how Black women across generations kept the rhythm alive, from blues and jazz singers to modern rap and hip-hop performers. With her characteristic energy, she shares how twerking empowered her to love her own body -- and explains why understanding its origins helps protect Black culture from erasure and misappropriation. (And, yes, she twerks on stage.)
The Great Migration and the power of a single decision
17 minutes 45 seconds
Sometimes, a single decision can change the course of history. Join journalist and author Isabel Wilkerson as she tells the story of the Great Migration, the outpouring of six million African Americans from the Jim Crow South to cities in the North and West between World War I and the 1970s. This was the first time in American history that the lowest caste people signaled they had options and were willing to take them -- and the first time they had a chance to choose for themselves what they would do with their innate talents, Wilkerson explains. "These people, by their actions, were able to do what the powers that be, North and South, could not or would not do," she says. "They freed themselves."
We need to talk about an injustice
23 minutes 24 seconds
In an engaging and personal talk -- with cameo appearances from his grandmother and Rosa Parks -- human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson shares some hard truths about America's justice system, starting with a massive imbalance along racial lines: a third of the country's black male population has been incarcerated at some point in their lives. These issues, which are wrapped up in America's unexamined history, are rarely talked about with this level of candor, insight and persuasiveness.
Embrace your raw, strange magic
16 minutes 54 seconds
The way we're taught to live has got to change, says author Casey Gerald. Too often, we hide parts of ourselves in order to fit in, win praise, be accepted. But at what cost? In this inspiring talk, Gerald shares the personal sacrifices he made to attain success in the upper echelons of American society -- and shows why it's time for us to have the courage to live in the raw, strange magic of ourselves.