10 great talks to celebrate Black History Month

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February is Black History Month.

These fascinating TED talks offer fresh perspectives on black identity, and fascinating insights on how to finally defeat racism.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story (18:49)
Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

Vernā Myers: How to overcome our biases? Walk boldly toward them (17:49)
Our biases can be dangerous, even deadly — as we’ve seen in the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner, in Staten Island, New York. Diversity advocate Vernā Myers looks closely at some of the subconscious attitudes we hold toward out-groups. She makes a plea to all people: Acknowledge your biases. Then move toward, not away from, the groups that make you uncomfortable. In a funny, impassioned, important talk, she shows us how.

Bryan Stevenson: We need to talk about an injustice (23:41)
In an engaging and personal talk — with cameo appearances from his grandmother and Rosa Parks — human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson shares some hard truths about America’s justice system, starting with a massive imbalance along racial lines: a third of the country’s black male population has been incarcerated at some point in their lives. These issues, which are wrapped up in America’s unexamined history, are rarely talked about with this level of candor, insight and persuasiveness.

Mellody Hobson: Color blind or color brave? (14:14)
The subject of race can be very touchy. As finance executive Mellody Hobson says, it’s a “conversational third rail.” But, she says, that’s exactly why we need to start talking about it. In this engaging, persuasive talk, Hobson makes the case that speaking openly about race — and particularly about diversity in hiring — makes for better businesses and a better society.

Jamila Lyiscott: 3 ways to speak English (4:29)
Jamila Lyiscott is a “tri-tongued orator;” in her powerful spoken-word essay “Broken English,” she celebrates — and challenges — the three distinct flavors of English she speaks with her friends, in the classroom and with her parents. As she explores the complicated history and present-day identity that each language represents, she unpacks what it means to be “articulate.”

Yoruba Richen: What the gay rights movement learned from the civil rights movement (17:42)
As a member of both the African American and LGBT communities, filmmaker Yoruba Richen is fascinated with the overlaps and tensions between the gay rights and the civil rights movements. She explores how the two struggles intertwine and propel each other forward — and, in an unmissable argument, she dispels a myth about their points of conflict. A powerful reminder that we all have a stake in equality.

Freeman Hrabowski: 4 pillars of college success in science (15:10)
At age 12, Freeman Hrabowski marched with Martin Luther King. Now he’s president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), where he works to create an environment that helps under-represented students — specifically African-American, Latino and low-income learners — get degrees in math and science. He shares the four pillars of UMBC’s approach.

Thelma Golden: How art gives shape to cultural change (12:28)
Thelma Golden, curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem, talks through three recent shows that explore how art examines and redefines culture. The “post-black” artists she works with are using their art to provoke a new dialogue about race and culture — and about the meaning of art itself.
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Clint Smith: The danger of silence (4:18)
“We spend so much time listening to the things people are saying that we rarely pay attention to the things they don’t,” says poet and teacher Clint Smith. A short, powerful piece from the heart, about finding the courage to speak up against ignorance and injustice.
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Stew: “Black Men Ski” (4:37)
What happens when a black man visits Aspen? Singer/songwriter Stew and his band are about to let you know.

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Here is a direct link to all ten TED talks.

To learn more about Black History Month, please click here.

To learn more about TED, please click here.

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