Founders Library at Howard University
Founders Library at Howard University Credit: Courtesy of Wikipedia

Howard University recently hosted a TEDx event designed to get the audience to think differently about issues that affect their daily lives.

TED events — short for technology, entertainment and design — are staged around the world, but this one was one of the few offered by an HBCU.

​The Sept. 14 event featured university professors and alumni speaking on a diverse group of topics ranging from the environment to children of incarcerated parents to influencing advertising.

“TED talks are designed for diverse communities with diverse topics,” said Cherie Ward, executive producer of the event. “The topics this year carry out the TEDx Howard University theme of ‘All things Glorious.’”

​Aprille Ericsson, an aerospace engineer and Howard University alumna who has worked at NASA for 25 years, stressed how routine activities we take for granted can have a long-range, adverse effect on our environment.

​”We need to be more focused on what we are doing to the environment,” Ericsson told the audience. “Things like what fertilizer or home insulation product to use impacts the environment more than we realize.”

​Audience members were moved by firsthand accounts of children and young adults moving beyond growing up with an incarcerated parent.

​”There are more success stories than most research would have you believe,” said Bahiyyah Muhammad, an assistant professor of sociology and criminology at Howard University. “These young people pursue studies and careers where they want to fix their communities.”

​In her presentation, “Does the Apple Fall Far from the Prison?,” based on a 10-year research project, Muhammad found that many children of incarcerated parents spend most of their time in school and not at home. They were excelling, winning awards for their school work, and were moving forward to attend college. Some of Muhammad’s research subjects were her own family members and a few of her students.

​Joanna Jenkins, an assistant professor in the Howard University School of Communications, shared that advertising will generate more than $214 billion in revenues this year. But when a company miscalculates a product promotion, consumers show their displeasure, as evidenced by a recent ad campaign by beauty product manufacturer Shea Moisture that backfired.

“We know that 57 percent of consumers will boycott a brand that does not share their social beliefs,” Jenkins said.

Civil right activist, attorney and Howard University alumnus Donald Temple spoke about about artificial intelligence (A.I.), the technological disruption in the coming decades and the inevitable shifts that will occur in society.

“Robots are here and 50 million workers will be displaced by robots and automation,” Temple said. “What happens to people who do not have the skills to move beyond or manage A.I.?”

Between the talks, the audience was entertained by the university’s a capella jazz vocal group Afro Blue and the Howard University Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel Choir.

Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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