TEDxYouth: Speaking Out

My experience at the TEDxYouth Day at the Hewitt School was something that I was not expecting. The only thing I knew about it was that Bill Clinton once did a speech for the event a few years ago, but I had no idea what I would be hearing, or how I would react to it. It was truly one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had, specifically because the speakers were women and men who spoke on what they cared about, such as bullying, dropping out of school, and the injuries of loved ones.

One speaker, Lo, was someone who I felt I could relate to on a personal level. She was mixed, like I was, and had someone she cared about deeply enlist in the army, and I too have someone whom I love in the army. Her stories spoke out to me in a way in which most other speakers hadn’t before. Another speaker was Mega, who talked about being bullied and losing himself in his world of art. Although I have never been bullied, to hear him say that he survived day by day by escaping into poetry and other forms of art really made me understand the love that some people have for art. While Lo was serious in her spoken word poetry, Mega’s was more light and funny. The fact that both speakers had two different ways of reciting their poetry and had the same effect on people made me realize that no two pieces of art are the same, nor are they different. They both touched people, and both underlined the true issues going on in the world.

Half of our Fierce and Fabulous: Feminist Women Writers, Artists, and Activists class had to present how we came to our feminist voices in front of a relatively small audience. My anxiety came about twenty minutes before our actual presentation. My hands were trembling, and everyone in my class said about ten times, “Are you nervous? I’m nervous.” It did help knowing others were as jumpy and miserable as I was. Not only was it nerve-wracking to have to tell a story about how you came into your voice to people you don’t know, I was also the first to go up and share my story. My nerves became so bad that Ileana Jiménez, my teacher, pulled me aside and told me that she believed in me and that if she didn’t think I was able to be the first person to speak, she wouldn’t have put me there. That helped calm my nerves somewhat, yet my nerves all came back when she invited us to stand on stage with her and the spotlight was on me.

Normally people want to be the first person to present so that they would be able to get it out of the way and relax, but for me it was the opposite. I wanted to be the last person. I wanted everyone to experience the nerves before I had to. I in no way felt prepared for what I was about to do. Before starting I looked over at Ileana, who nodded her head for me to start. I looked into the audience and, finding friends that I knew were there, I then began to speak.

I shared how growing up, I would read stories about women who were abused mentally, physically, and emotionally, and how they allowed this to happen because they were quiet, kept their opinions to themselves, and in short, became what society told them to be. While delving deeper into the stories, I would read about the women overcoming the abuse to become strong, independent women, who voiced their opinions, and in a way went against what society told them to be. I thought to myself after reading those stories that it should not have gotten to that point for the women to become independent. It should not take abuse for women to see that they must stand up for themselves. The only way we can let women know that they can be independent is by encouraging them to speak out, and to tell them that no one should have the power to control them and their voice. The little things like encouraging the women to say what they think and to ignore the status quo can help more than one would think.

Overall, my time at TEDxYouth was something that will forever be a part of me. It showed me that more people cared about major issues than what is assumed by the masses. These kids and young adults came out to speak, because this is the one place they can speak and not have to think that people won’t listen.  TEDxYouth was created for teenagers to simply state what issues are bothering them and their cause for action. I am very happy that I went to Hewitt that day, for I feel like I learned a lot after being at the conference. One major thing that I learned was that, no matter how young or old you are, you always have a voice and it will be heard. Because of the fact that all of the speakers at TEDxYouth inspired me and as well as knowing I have the ability to inspire change has enabled me to find and use my feminist voice.

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