This March I attended my first HYPE Richmond event – the 804UM. The keynote speaker at this event was Andy Stefanovich and in the closing of his highly energetic presentation he mentioned that a “TED-like event” was coming to Richmond in June and to be on the lookout for news and details about how to attend and get involved. Needless to say, my interest was piqued.
As buzz built about this event from the Spring to the Summer, I tracked social media posts, emails and news alerts for more information. On June 23, 2011 – I excitedly made my way to downtown Richmond for the i.e.* RVA Launch at LaDifference (read their recap here).
Not knowing what to expect I arrived early to scope things out. I was immediately pleased to be welcomed by event volunteers and see creative activities set up along the way to the “main event” location. This was not going to be your drab old networking conference for sure!
After Andy Stefanovich of Prophet and Tom Silvestri of the Richmond Times Dispatch kicked things off with a motivational shout, Ed and Kelly Trask were the first provocateurs. Introduced as an acclaimed yoga instructor, Kelly led us in a centering exercise and encouraged us to begin this full day with an open heart and mind. A few simply brilliant statements and ideas that Ed shared resonated with me from the get-go.
1. Take a minute to make a change .
2. Be aware of your surroundings – don’t let them pass you by.
3. Remember that “Little things make big things.”
Check out his work at http://www.edwardtrask.com/art/murals/richmond/index.php
There were several empowering and magical women on stage as well like Susan Singer, Valley Haggard, and Liz Kellinger – I was literally entranced by their stories of transformation and possibility. Susan inspired attendees with her journey as an artist with a mission of changing the way we feel about women’s bodies. Valley touched my heart with her passionate expression of vulnerability and ultimate realization that she could be accepting of all parts – as we should all be. Liz’s story hit closest to home for me as she described her road to self discovery.
There were proud stories of young entrepreneurs and scholars shared by Jeff and Joey Anderson of BioTaxi, Lisa Crawford represented successful student project initiatives at VCU, and Samantha Marquez humbly shared her story as a 15-year-old scientist on a mission to make a change.
During our lunch break, I took just a moment to review the Twitter stream from my phone. I was elated to read positive quotes , posts, and retweets from the day’s event – and maddened at the more cynical and sarcastic comments (though luckily these were in the minority.) I have been pleased to see a healthy conversation between the supporters and naysayers since the launch and hope this open conversation continues – that’s what driving change is all about!
Out of several breakout pods, I was most in awe of Anoa Monsho, an inspiring writer from Dallas, Texas who expressed the importance of the power of story. She asked our group, “What are you trying to push Richmond to be perceived as?” – this is something we should all continue thinking about and sharing with one another during this initiative. She also honored us with a closing toast that can be read on the i.e.* blog.
As a young professional in Richmond I am genuinely excited to continue participating in initiatives that support i.e.* RVA’s cause. This launch, with its broad variety of speakers and attendees, was very well done and the many messages shared had to have reached each individual participant in their own way – some faces looked happy, some hesitant, some inspired. At the closing of the event, I was appreciative of a colleague sharing an idea we discussed during one of the many activities – that one has to practice writing fiction to improve their nonfiction writing. When we work in silos we never seem to reach the potential ahead. So fellow Richmonders and beyond, let’s keep working towards this collaborative initiative together and see where we can lead our city!