Pastor, Chef and Robot Walk Into a Church

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

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).

Michael A. Walrond Jr.

Walrond, senior pastor for First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem, opened the conference with an inspirational speech calling for everyone to unleash their creativity and find the “passion for the possible,” which is also the title of a book by former Riverside Church pastor William Sloane Coffin. Waldron said Coffin “reminded us that all of us who have wonderful ideals, who are innovative thinkers who are people who believe not in what is but what can be, must all enlist in a rebellion. To rebel and enlist in the fight in the abolition of the impossible.”

Bruce Duncan With Android Bina48

Duncan is the project leader of LifeNaut, an online project where people can create a “mindfile,” a personal digital archive that serves as a “backup” to each person’s own mind. Duncan said LifeNaut hopes to one day upload those mindfiles into avatars or robots to re-animate everyone’s personalities, which is how the robot Bina48 was created. As Bina48 answered questions from the audience, one couldn’t help thinking of Siri, iPhone’s digital assistant. But unlike Siri, whose gets information from the Internet, Bina48 was sharing data from an actual human being.