TEDx Buffalo

I was delighted when I received an invitation to attend TEDxBuffalo. (I felt slightly less special when I found out they’d accepted 400 applicants instead of the typical 100, but…no matter. It was still a TED conference!)

This year’s theme was Renaissance Citizens. There are a lot of Buffalo residents who do so much more than their day jobs.

Our host for the day was Kristen Becker, comedian and General Manager of Helium Comedy Club. I liked her — she did a great job capturing our attention when we’d just sat down with our morning coffee.

I decided to highlight six of my favorite speakers (there were 14 total) in the order they appeared on stage. All 14 videos can be viewed on YouTube.


1) Bernice Radle:

  • Bernice spoke about the importance of historic preservation, including the success of Hamlin Park obtaining recognition as a National Historic District.
  • Why are so many homes in Buffalo vacant? They are stuck in a system that is difficult for even professionals to understand. She calls this phenomenon the Vacancy Vortex.
  • With assistance, some people are successfully purchasing abandoned properties and making them their own, like the Lyth Cottage.
  • Bernice and her partner purchased a home sight-unseen from a Buffalo housing auction and have been slowly rehabbing it (more on that story in this post).
  • After the event, Bernice wrote a great blog post called The Story of My TEDxBuffalo Experience: Before, During and After


2) Bryana DiFonzo and Bishnu Prasad Adhikari:

  • Bryana is Volunteer Manager at Journey’s End Refugee Services (you might also remember that she accompanied me on the Foodie to Farm Tour last month).
  • She shared the stage with Bishnu, a refugee from Bhutan she has grown so close to that she calls him her brother.
  • Bhutan is known for its Gross National Happiness but 1/6 of their citizens have been evicted unwillingly.
  • Buffalo receives 1,800 refugees per year (20,000 since 1980). Refugees can help turn Buffalo’s population decline around.
  • 21 formerly vacant homes are now being lived in by refugees.
  • Bryana and Bishnu were featured in a Buffalo News piece the day after the event: At TEDx Forum, Refugee Voice in a Chorus to Boost Buffalo


3) Gloria J. Zemer:

  • Gloria describes herself as a “rogue humanitarian.”
  • She spoke about a piece by Milton Friedman called “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits.” She gave examples of disturbing consequences that have occurred when businesses focus only on profits instead of people.
  • Gloria encouraged citizens to “restore dignity to the human experience rather than demanding cheap junk.”
  • Decide what’s in your power to do and then act.
  • She wrapped up with this: “It concerns me that my generation may not be remembered for what we created, but what we tolerated. What do you value most?”


4) Matt Petroski:

  • Matt grew up in a family of 17 children. There was always chaos, and he ended up choosing jobs that put him into chaotic situations.
  • Don’t let the day of the week dictate what kind of day you will have.
  • “You have to be able to overcome fear of rejection of your own ideas so you can advance the ideas of someone else.”
  • Matt said we can always do more than what we’re doing right now. The next time someone says that you did a good job, ask yourself “Compared to what?” We should always strive to do better.


5) Karen Forster:

  • Karen coordinates the Priscilla Project of Buffalo, a prenatal mentoring program for refugee women.
  • Healthcare can be confusing for those who speak English; imagine how much more difficult it is for those who don’t understand English.
  • The Project works with refugees from 18 different countries (speaking 20 different languages).


6) Dan Behrens:

  • Dan is a “musician, producer, composer and recording engineer who releases music under the name Danimal Cannon.” He composes music for commercials and video games.
  • The interesting thing about Dan is he uses chiptunes to create sound. Chip music is created with the use of sound chips from vintage computers, video game consoles (including the Game Boy, which we heard an example of), and arcade machines.
  • Dan has attended Chiptune festivals around the world, including Japan, Mexico City, and Philadelphia.


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  • Reply Elissa October 24, 2013 at 10:57 am

    I watched lot Ted Talks…must have been fin to be there in person!

    • Reply Zan October 25, 2013 at 9:35 am

      Oh, immensely so! It was a great experience. 🙂

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