High bar set by TEDxMarionCorrectional



I’m not sure what words come remotely close to the power of authentic vulnerability, the awesomeness of compassionate community and the awe-inspiring depth of yesterday’s 5th annual TEDxMarionCorrectional, near Columbus, Ohio.

Mark – who’s attended over 50 TED and TEDx events – placed yesterday’s event among the top 5 he’s ever attended!!!!  You guys are going to think we’re biased and exaggerating.  Well, wait until you attend TEDxDonovanCorrectional to realize that these are actually understatements!

Marion was the first prison to hold a TEDx five years ago and the Marion residents (as they are known) have kept the momentum going, putting on a total of 11 TED events within their walls.  And they are serious PROS!!!!!

Here’s my attempt at placing words on this six-hour event.  The talks were passionate and raw, sharing so matter-of-factly traumatic and transformative life events.  Each speaker took us a ride, punctuated with humor and horror, to share the most intimate details of their lives.  At times with our jaws on the floor and others with tears in our eyes, we received these speakers’ hearts shared with intimacy and power.

One speaker spoke about finally finding his voice after having been silenced at the ripe age of six by an intruder into his home who hushed his brother and him as he headed upstairs to their mother’s bedroom.  (Fill in the details – until the talks are online)  Another shared her journey through molestation and rape to find her self in breath and yoga.  An incarcerated man heard his mother’s story for the first time, discovering the woman behind his mother. One speaker offered learnings from his family’s journey to overcome his daughter’s debilitating lupus.  As another man shared what his mother told him one night, the entire audience gasped in horror – a very rare occurrence, as certified by our TED event junkie, Mark.  Several residents shared poetry, including one man who’s written over 24,000 poems!  Another speaker inspired us with his fried chicken restaurant in Columbus providing “fair-chance employment to people with an ‘alternative resume’”. Love that expression!  😉

I asked one speaker how it felt to be so vulnerable on stage. “It felt like I was being who I was meant to be.” Success!!!!!

The 2.5 hours of talks had already transformed all of us and the day was barely half through! We shared conversation and dinner, in tight pods of four, with the Marion residents. In my pod, we spoke about how we’ve each revisioned our lives and our respective turning points on that journey. We learned of the residents’ talents, which they discovered for the most part in prison; they had never received the necessary pre-prison support to uncover their talents and gifts. I spoke to a graphic designer, a playwright who directed over 40 plays at Marion, a crafty business entrepreneur, a rapper, etc. The men were super excited of the fried chicken dinner, their first meal catered from the outside since last year’s TEDx event. All of us loved hearing stories and discovering each other’s humanness. It’s the greatest magic of this event: we entered as strangers – and, for some, with some apprehension of being in prison – and left as friends, having connected to that part in others which is a reflection of our own self.

More reflections from the event to come…