TEDxCUNY hosts remote ‘Reflections’ event

Jonathan Wu

TEDxCUNY held its annual digital salon event for the fall 2021 semester, titled “TEDxCUNY Salon: Reflections,” on Nov. 14.

This year marked the seventh anniversary of the TEDxCUNY event. It also was the third virtual event, after being online for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Introduced with a keynote speech from Interim Dean of Macaulay Honors College Vanessa Valdés, the event was hosted by current Macaulay Honors students.

Its four speakers — Bart Berkey, Maria Olsen, Maxwell Waterman and Sadhvi Siddhali Shree — focused on the theme of “Reflections.” The discussion encouraged audience members to take a moment and reflect on their life’s journey that has led them to where they are today at this point in the pandemic.

Berkey, a former hospitality industry executive and recruiter for The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, is a Virginia-based motivational storyteller dedicated to assisting others fulfill the most out of their lives through taking action.

Berkey recounted stories from his days as a recruiter at networking events to his recent blood pressure health scares. He reflected on what lifestyle changes people should all make as a result of his observations.

Olsen is a biracial lawyer, journalist and author based in Washington, D.C. A graduate of Boston College and the University of Virginia School of Law, she told stories of the discrimination she and her mixed-race family faced growing up in Maryland during the 1960s.

Olsen analyzed her experiences with discrimination and social mobility, exploring the adversity that minority groups face in society.

Waterman is a New York City-based educator and performance artist as the director of the dance department at a Brooklyn high school. He is also the program director of the Young Artists program at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance.

A graduate of Hunter College, Waterman integrates social-emotional learning in his dance and education. He reenacted memories from his childhood, breaking the fourth wall to interject and reveal his inner thoughts on how those moments influenced his upbringing.

Siddhali Shree, a U.S. Army Iraq War veteran and the first North American Jain female-monk, is an activist filmmaker. She serves as the executive director of Stopping Traffic, a non-profit organization providing aid to sex trafficking victims.

Shree discussed first-hand accounts from victims highlighted in her upcoming documentary, “Surviving Sex Trafficking,” and reflected on how these experiences depict the faults of violence in society.

Typically held in the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College, the pre-recorded event was the third installment in the TEDxCUNY Digital Series launched this year in response to social distancing measures.