And we have a theme!!!!

The first TEDxDonovanCorrectional will explore what is “Beyond the Surface.”

This multifaceted theme won the vote of Yard A residents, based on a shortlist crafted by the 11-men Core Team. This yard engagement is fun to create and actually also highly innovative as most TEDx events in prison are created top-down with little to no inmate participation. We’re taking the exact opposite approach: the only event details the men in blue will not execute are the ones they cannot. And we’re engaging all individuals on the yard as often as we can create the opportunity. For that matter, we are likely the first prison TEDx to have the theme decided by a prison-wide vote.

And it’s an honor to hold space for the men to craft this event to their vision and dream. Mark and I continue to find our jaws on the floor in response to the creativity and wisdom of these men. Two weeks ago, unsure if the men had grasped the challenge of theme articulation, we had prepared a few ideas of our own. Just in case. Oh, us of little faith! They hit the theme idea brainstorming, the shortlisting process and the voting process out of the park.

Never underestimate the power of a human being when given the opportunity to step into his or her brilliance.

This has been my deepest learning of my prison experiences. Our quick judgments limit the playing field we provide to ourselves and to others. How can this hodgepodge of tattooed men with mediocre education, really messed up childhoods and in prison for decades (and some who will never see the streets again) pull off the logistics and creative complexities of a TEDx? Simply because we trust that they can. We see their humanness and connect to that essence which lives in each of us. We see this potential in them. We hold space for them to see it too. And we remember Joss Whedon’s “Recognizing power in another does not diminish your own.”

(…Quite the contrary…)

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