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The Eastern Echo Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Print Archive
The Eastern Echo

The third annual TEDxYDL comes to Ypsilanti

The Ypsilanti District Library, also known as the YDL, brought the popular speech organization TED to Washtenaw County through TEDxYDL.

On Thursday, Sept. 27, over 100 people attended the event at Riverside Art Center, to listen to inspiring stories and engage with others in their community.

Over the summer, several Ypsi workers and habitants applied to share their thoughts and experiences under the theme, “mobility.” For its third year in a row, TEDxYDL featured eleven speakers with 8-10 minute talks on how to mobilize. This was also the first year that the event had a mostly female lineup of speakers and a female emcee, Yodit Mesfin Johnson, chief operating officer of NEW, an organization that helps local nonprofits thrive in Ann Arbor and Detroit. However, the lineup wasn’t expected to turn out that way.

In response to the female majority of TEDxYDL, Gillian Ream Gainsley, director of communications and development at YDL said, “I don’t think that it functionally changed the show...but it just turned out that we had all women.”

During the application process, organizers over the event found that women had top notch topics and public speaking experience. 

“With the comradery and support that women are having in the political climate now, along with the fact that women’s voices aren’t always trusted and heard,” Gainsley said, “having mostly women come, was wonderful and empowering to see.”

The one man that was a speaker for TEDxYDL was Dan LaBruna, who discussed the future of autonomous vehicles for senior citizens and the disabled, after witnessing his grandfather spend the last years of his life in a wheelchair. LaBruna is also an engineering manager at M City.

“We’ve always had mostly males, while also trying to balance it out. Our last two emcees were also male,” Gainsley said. 

The organizers of TEDx were very happy to host this event for its third year in a row. 

“This year, the venue changed, and it’s a real theatre [at Riverside] that gave gravitas and was a big, beautiful space,” Gainsley said.

For 2018, speakers talked about many ways that people mobilize. Kelsey Kleimola discussed how she lives a normal life as a person in a wheelchair with cerebral palsy, and winning Ms.Wheel Michigan in 2014. President of the Latinx Student Association at Eastern Michigan University, Pamela Mercado Garcia, along with vice president Zereth Bustamente Luevano, shared the hardships of  receiving an education in America as a Latinx person. Director of Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels, Alison Foreman, advised how the elderly navigate their communities through the #CAPABLE program. 

The nonprofit TED, is famous for presenting a diverse array of ideas in short, engaging speeches. The x represents the TED talks that are locally and independently organized, and the Ypsilanti District Library is teaming up with Engage @EMU and Riverside Art Center to bring TED to Ypsilanti. 

TED’s mission to spread ideas has reached millions of people both nationally and internationally. The organizers of TEDxYDL 2018 welcomed all members of Ypsilanti’s community to hear from their counterparts. TEDx not only aims to inform, but also entertain, persuade, and connect.

In the past two years of TEDxYDL, movers and shakers of Washtenaw County discussed many fascinating topics from uniting a college campus after a hate crime, to the hot button issue of fake news in mainstream media.

The event was free of charge and open to the public. Those who attended were welcomed to stay after the speeches to enjoy a free reception that included a cash bar. Guests also took home “swag bags” courtesy of the YDL, Riverside, and Engage @EMU. 

When asked what’s in store for future TEDx events, Gainsley said, “People really like this event...and it’s really fun to produce, so we’ll see what happens. We’d be happy to find other sponsors.” 

To find out more about TEDxYDL 2018, including the recorded event, visit