Pastor, Chef and Robot Walk Into a Church

At TEDxHarlem, diverse speakers (and an android) revived the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance.

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Bina48 the android

Harlem has long been known for its artists and literary figures who gave birth to the first Harlem Renaissance, in the 1920s. It was that creative legacy that inspired the organizers of the first-ever TEDxHarlem on Tuesday at Riverside Church.

TEDx events are independently produced spinoffs of the exclusive annual TED conferences. Created more than 30 years ago, TED -- which stands for technology, education and design -- brings together creative thinkers and innovators to share outside-the-box ideas. Events such as TEDxHarlem embody TED's motto of "ideas worth sharing."

One of the issues with bringing a TEDx to Harlem was that the brand didn't register with some residents, said Marcus Glover, one of the event organizers. He said he began introducing the idea of TEDxHarlem to the neighborhood 18 months ago.

"What we sought to do was to use the Harlem Renaissance to suggest that 'thought leadership' was not something foreign or new to the Harlem community," said Glover. "We were thought leaders before it was ever called this cool buzzword.

"First we went door to door to most of the people who were doing important work -- churches, community-based organizations, grassroots organizations, foundations, schools. It was important to lay the groundwork for this type of event." (Even with the outreach, there were still some concerns. One of the criticisms of the event was that the $100 ticket price -- plus $16 in fees -- was unaffordable for many Harlem residents. A venue change -- from the Apollo Theater to Riverside Church -- allowed organizers to reduce the price to $20.)

Glover hopes TEDxHarlem can be more than an annual event. "We want to be a galvanizing force for Harlem. We would like to cultivate idea people, visionaries, on a year-round basis and then give them the platform TEDxHarlem."

Using the theme "Creating Waves," TEDxHarlem fostered the notion that ideas can cause ripple effects that can spread to many places. It featured more than 20 innovators, performers and activists from a variety of fields -- from environmental activist Majora Carter to chef Marcus Samuelsson, who gave a series of lectures and demonstrations that were meant to provoke thought and inspire action.

The audience members were a mix of Harlem business leaders, residents and students. Michelle Newson, owner of Onederland Events, said TEDxHarlem was a new way for her to make connections. "It's just so great to keep expanding that network, especially with people in Harlem that you didn't even know lived right down the street from you and they're doing such amazing things." Newson also understands that this event is only the beginning for creating change in the community. "The seed is planted and now we just have to grow it and make it happen."

Julian Riley, a Harlem resident who is working on opening a brewery called Harlem Blue, came to TEDxHarlem simply to soak in the vibe. "I like being around innovative, creative sparks. Anytime we have creative heads in the room, I want to be there," he said.

With more than 20 speakers offering a rich diversity of ideas, we recapped 10 of the best speakers and presenters (videos of the presentations will be available at TedxHarlem or through the iPhone app in about a week).