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"Wild Card" took place on March 9th, 2018 at the CUNY Graduate Center. 

TEDxCUNY 2018: Wild Card

March 9th, 2018 at the CUNY Graduate Center

TEDxCUNY highlighted how variability drives communities both large and small to challenge the status quo and reimagine normality. Human beings are not just cogs in the machine – we are independent thinkers that push the walls and boundaries of society, politics, technology, and science to attain our full, unique potential. TEDxCUNY 2018 explored our “Wild Card” personalities and actions, and how our unpredictability enhances the human experience. 

Meet Our Speakers

Khalid El Khatib is a contributor to VICE, PAPER, OUT, and Hello Mr. magazine where he covers art, culture, and LGBTQ issues. He is writing a memoir about his experiences growing up in Iowa and New York as the gay son of a Muslim father. He is also a digital marketing strategist and the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at GLG.

Ayo Oti is a social impact professional that has spent her career thus far working in government, nonprofit, social enterprise, and higher education. Currently, Ayo manages CUNY Cultural Corps, a workforce development program for CUNY students and alumni that desire to work in the culture sector. Ayo is a 2012 graduate of the Macaulay  Honors College and CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies, and 2011 Truman Scholar.

Bensky Belizaire is a junior at Queens College, where he is majoring in Economics and serving as the president of NABA (National Association of Black Accountants). He is of Haitian descent and recently decided to combine his love for his country and culture, with the depth of poetry to introduce a new narrative for people to speak.

Kurtis Walker, known worldwide as Kurtis Blow, is a singer, producer, actor & Hip-Hop pioneer. He is credited with having Hip-Hop's first certified Gold Record ("The Breaks"), signing Hip-Hop's first record deal, and being the first Hip-Hop artist to tour internationally. Kurtis brought innovation to the Hip-Hop scene to help solidify its place in culture, and continues to carry the torch for the originators.

Laura Kriska is a cross-cultural consultant working to build bridges within Fortune 500 companies. Her mission is to build more effective organizations through integrating an increasingly diverse work force. She is the author of The Accidental Office Lady, a memoir about working in Japan. She is currently writing a book, WE: How Organizations Can Bridge the Gap Between Us and Them.

Jessica Bauman is a theater and film director, teacher and producer. She recently adapted and directed "Arden/Everywhere," a re-imagining of Shakespeare's "As You Like It" as a story about refugees. In the process of developing "Arden/Everywhere," Jessica has worked with refugees, former refugees and immigrants from all over the world, both in New York City and Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.

Leah Frazier is a leading FashionPreneur™, a former multi-licensed attorney turned fashion-guru. In addition to being a brand ambassador for the Dallas Entrepreneur Center, Leah leads the fashion track for Dallas Start-Up Week, and founded Fashion Connext and Think Three Media. She has been featured on numerous media outlets and cultivated top-tier partnerships with companies. Leah has also co-authored her first book, The Success Factor, which will be released this May.

Michael John McIntosh is a fine artist, motion designer, and director with a focus in watercolor painting. Concepts of spirituality & world culture are both illuminated & made contemporary via his “pop-surrealism” style. Along with a unique style of boldly-colored abstract paintings, the aim of his work is a soft re-education of spirituality & the universe in an effort to manifest large & positive change & healing on earth. Michael attended The School of Visual Arts in NYC where he lives & works as a motion designer.

Dan Schlesinger is an artist, native New Yorker, and a former student at Yale College, Oxford University (where he was a Marshall Scholar) and Harvard Law School.  After ten years of legal practice, Dan discovered a passion for art and began his career as an oil painter, ceramicist and illustrator. Today Dan is also celebrated by collectors around the world for his work in oils, and as the illustrator for the Japanese edition of the Harry Potter series.  

Thomas Allen Harris is a filmmaker and artist whose work illuminates the human condition and the search for identity, family, and spirituality. Graduate of Harvard College and the Whitney Independent Study Program and member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Harris lectures widely on the use of media as a tool for social change. Harris founded Digital Diaspora Family Reunion, LLC (DDFR), a social engaged transmedia project that incorporates community organizing, performance, virtual gathering spaces, and storytelling. His films have received critical acclaim at international film festivals.

Maxwell Melvins is a community counselor and para-professional facilitator. After being jailed in 1980, Max joined the Lifer's Group, an organization founded for the support of long-term inmates. In the early 1990s, he developed a new Lifer's Group project, utilizing his passion for music to produce rap albums. Today, he writes and publishes poetry in community magazines and participates in panel discussions for educational and community events.

Bree Clarke is the founder & creative Director of The Iman Project and Lavender & Mint Designs. She has combined her passion for design as well as purpose of community & diversity by creating magical moments such as “On The Table " Workshops with a Purpose, Mama Mode: Events Celebrating Modern Motherhood, and The Giving Table Project. In all the work she does, Bree seeks to empower others and bring people together no matter their background, style, age, religion or opinion.

2018 Workshops & Tabling



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2018 Partners

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