Article in Business in Savannah by Julia Ritchey.
Former financier turned judicial reform advocate Howell Woltz spent 87 months in prison, 12 of those in solitary confinement. On Friday, he will have 12 minutes to summarize both the circumstances of his imprisonment and the years he’s spent since fighting for justice in what he calls a broken system.
Woltz is just one of 16 speakers to be featured at this year’s TEDx event hosted by local nonprofit The Creative Coast. TED, an acronym for Technology, Entertainment and Design, has become a global phenomenon since its debut in 1990, with dozens of independently organized conferences each year and hundreds of speakers who live up to the organization’s slogan of “ideas worth spreading.”
Each year, The Creative Coast must seek a license to use the TED name and follow a specific set of rules set up by the nonprofit, including a stipulation that no money can be made from the event.
“This is our main community event that The Creative Coast does,” said program director Charisse Bennett. “Most of our other events are geared toward entrepreneurs, so TEDx is this nice event that brings a really diverse group of Savannahians together in one place.”
Now in its fifth year, the event will be streamed online via LiveStream for those who didn’t get a ticket in time — they sold out about a month ago — starting at 8:30 a.m. and going to 5 p.m.
This year’s theme is “exploring R/Evolution,” according to Bennett, a topic their committee picked in part to inspire people to become more active participants in their communities.
Bennett said they received 70 applications for this year’s TEDx, which they then whittled down. This year’s group ranges from a local jazz musician talking about creativity to a Georgia Southern Ph.D. student from Nigeria who is creating medical robots controlled by mobile devices.
Although some TED events bring speakers from all over, Bennett said The Creative Coast tries to focus on people who live in the region.
Woltz, from North Carolina, has an interesting connection to Savannah. His harrowing memoir, “Justice Denied,” was adapted into a documentary by a Savannah College of Art and Design film student last year and was selected best documentary at the 2013 SCADemy Awards.
During a TEDx rehearsal, Woltz described how his conviction — on charges of conspiring to defraud the U.S. government — is just part of a broader trend in the judicial system toward lawlessness, eventually tying that to the harm it causes budding innovators and entrepreneurs.
“Most of the men I met (in prison) were not hardened criminals. They were entrepreneurs, small business owners and innovators,” said Woltz, who began helping fellow prisoners file appeals to reduce their sentences.
“I learned government is now being used as a blunt tool often against innovators to protect corporate interests rather than protect us, which is not its purpose,” he said.
Although some TEDx speakers may be new names, some are higher profile. Somara Theodore, a meteorologist on WJCL News, will discuss cultural diversity and Harry DeLorme, a senior curator at Telfair Museums, will talk about the museum’s annual PULSE Art and Technology festival.
Since speakers are limited to 12 minutes, Bennett said, there’s no time for boredom. She said it’s always rewarding to see the connections that happen at TEDx Creative Coast, with audience members and speakers often going to dinner afterward.
“They feel the excitement and pressure,” said Bennett of this year’s speakers. “It’s really nice to see the new sort of friendships and connections happen.”
This has been a News Recap by The Creative Coast! Here we provide our news mentions and bi-weekly columns… just in case you missed them.
Source: Business in Savannah
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