By Jonnelle Davis
News & Record, Greensboro, N.C.
The spark for Naeemah Clark came as a little girl when she thought having Cher’s long, shiny black hair or Marie Osmond’s button nose could make her “somebody.”
The spark for Anthony “Tony” Tata came as he commanded troops as an officer in the U.S. Army.
And the spark for Taylor Mabe came as he watched his grandfather and later a good friend struggle with addiction.
They were just three of the 10 people who shared how events in their lives ignited sparks of creativity in them during the third TEDx Greensboro conference, held Thursday at Triad Stage. As you might have guessed, this year’s theme was “Spark.”
TEDx is an international program to help individuals and communities connect and share ideas. Richard “Skip” Moore, a former president of the Weaver Foundation, puts on the Greensboro events, which have been held for three years. Moore said the event has sold out every year.
The event was also live-streamed to a few local high schools, Bennett College and the WellSpring retirement community.
The speakers were diverse, ranging from a Silicon Valley investor to a nanoscientist.
Clark, an associate professor of communications at Elon University, was spurred to study the media because there were so few women who looked like her on TV during her formative years. She told TEDx attendees that TV gives insight into other people’s humanity.
Mabe was just 12 years old when his grandfather died. He made moonshine, and Mabe said his death would be his first time dealing with addiction. He later moved to Wilmington, where he met a friend who was also struggling with an addiction.
Mabe said those experiences ignited the spark that pushed him to become a nanoscientist. He is studying for his doctorate at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering at UNC-Greensboro and N.C. A&T. He is conducting research to determine whether the study of tiny particles can be used to help make drugs to fight addiction and other illnesses without producing the many side effects that other drugs do.
“My passion to unravel addiction is what drives me,” he told the group.
Tata is North Carolina’s transportation secretary. Before that he was superintendent of Wake County Schools and served 28 years in the U.S. Army.
But now he also writes military thrillers, a spark that was lit when he was a young boy bringing home armloads of books from the book fair. He discussed with the group the art and science of his creative process for writing books, the storylines for which are taken from his military experiences. He donates the proceeds of his books to veterans’ charities.
Ann Saxman of Wilmington said the event was a good mix of information and entertainment.
“It was a lot better than I expected,” she said.
Moore also updated participants on the “sparks” happening in Greensboro, including the construction of the Steven B. Tanger Center for the Performing Arts, LeBauer Park and the Downtown Greenway.
“We’re creating a center for downtown,” Moore said.