TED Talks bring renowned, talented and brilliant and people to discuss topics they are passionate about. During Black History Month, we’ve curated a list of must-see TED Talks by leading African-American experts and visionaries. Be ready to be inspired, moved, and maybe even cry a little. These leaders are doing great work in their respective fields, and are asking you to challenge the status quo and to think outside the box. They bring to the forefront issues that we are uncomfortable talking about: race, diversity, white privilege, institutionalized racism, poverty and much more.

SHONDA RHIMES: MY YEAR OF SAYING YES TO EVERYTHING (2016)

Shonda Rhimes, the mastermind behind Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder needs no introduction. Shonda recently spent a year of her life saying “Yes” to all the things that scared her. She wrote a book about it, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person, definitely worth checking out. In this TED Talk, Shonda says “Yes changed my life.” She shares how saying yes to play with her kids saved her from being a workaholic… she says “Work doesn’t work without play.” Her talk reminds us that everyone needs to play from time to time, and that it’s important to all of us to make time to play (even if you’re the queen of (TV) universe).

JEDIDAH ISLER: THE UNTAPPED GENIUS THAT COULD CHANGE SCIENCE FOR THE BETTER (2015)

Jedidah Isler dreamed about becoming an astrophysicist since she was 12 years old. She recently became the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D in Astrophysics from Yale. She is interested in bringing STEM programs to communities of color, especially to young women of color.

CLINT SMITH: HOW TO RAISE A BLACK SON IN AMERICA (2015)

Clint Smith is a poet and educator. He recounts how his father said “You can’t act the same way as your white friends.” and how his parents raised his siblings and himself with a set of rules “an armor of advice” so they could be alive. “What does it do to a child to grow up knowing that you cannot simply be a child?” He asks. Powerful.

NADINE BURKE HARRIS: HOW CHILDHOOD TRAUMA AFFECTS HEALTH ACROSS A LIFETIME (2014)

Pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris explains that childhood trauma and stress (like parent neglect, abuse, exposure to parental mental illness or substance abuses, for example) has real effects on a child’s developing brain. She says there are real reasons why people who have experiences trauma are more likely to engage in high-risk behavior and even if they don’t, they are more likely to develop heart disease or cancer. Dr. Burke Harris is the CEO of The Center for Youth Wellness  whose mission is “to improve the health of children and adolescents exposed to Adverse Childhood Experiences.”

YORUBA RICHEN: WHAT THE GAY RIGHTS MOVEMENT LEARNED FROM THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT (2014)

Yoruba Richen is a documentary filmmaker. In the TED Talk she looks at how the gay rights movement and the civil rights movement intersect, especially in her experience as a Black, Gay Woman.   Her latest documentary, The New Black explores how the African-American community grapples with gay rights issues in light of the gay marriage movement and the fight over civil rights.  She is director of the documentary program at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

MELLODY HOBSON: COLOR BLIND OR COLOR BRAVE? (2014)

Mellody Hobson discusses how talking about race is exactly what we need, and diversity in hiring is better for businesses and for society. Mellody is president of  Ariel Investments, one of the largest African-American-owned money management firms in the United States and is the Chairwoman of the board of Dreamworks.

JAMES A. WHITE SR.: THE LITTLE PROBLEM I HAD RENTING A HOUSE (2014)

As a younger man, James A. White Sr. served in the military and recounts the obstacles he faced finding a home for his family and what he calls “everyday racism” and how he’s still hearing stories of everyday racism over 40 years later, when he hears how his grandkids interact with law enforcement.

GEOFFREY CANADA: OUR FAILING SCHOOLS. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! (2013)

“Why shouldn’t poor kids have the same opportunity [as rich kids?]” The President of Harlem Children Zone, Dr. Geoffrey Canada is critical of outdated policies in education that fail kids and calls for innovation in education.

BRYAN STEVENSON: WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT AN INJUSTICE (2012)

Bryan Stevenson is a public interest lawyer, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.  Mr. Stevenson works tirelessly on criminal justice issues: helping end life without parole for youngsters as young as 13 and defending innocent people on death row, for example. He has dedicated his life to challenge bias against the poor and people of color. For more information on his work, I invite you to read Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.

MAJORA CARTER: GREENING THE GHETTO (2006)

Majora Carter’s TedTalk was one of the first six videos in the Tedtalks.com. Majora has been committed to urban economic development in the South Bronx. She established Sustainable South Bronx and  Green For All. She has spent her life working to fight for economic and environmental justice and democratize sustainability. She is currently the President of Majora Carter Group. 

 

Hope these TED Talks inspire you!

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