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Work Samples

Inspiring stories highlighted at fifth annual TEDx Oak Park Women

TEDx Oak Park Women gave local men and women a chance organizers say to be bold and brilliant without apology when it presented its fifth annual event on Dec. 12 at the Nineteenth Century Club in Oak Park.

The program provided a platform for 8 speakers to share stories of inspiration to move people to action.

Janna Fiester, a co-organizer for the executive committee of TEDx Oak Park Women, said knowing the event is celebrating five years means a lot.

“For us, the fifth annual is definitely a milestone,” she said.

This time around, the program’s theme was “bold + brilliant—no apologies.”

“Since we’re a TEDx Women event, we partner, if you will, or have our event really close to the TEDx Women Conference, and the TEDx Women Conference was last week,” Fiester said. “We always like to use the same theme because we have to show videos from the TEDx Women Conference. We give access to the videos early to our audience. So, the themes are the same and the videos have more coherence with our event.”

The event’s speakers addressed a variety of topics, touching upon everything from ageism to Arab feminism.

Mount Sinai Hospital trauma social worker Rosanelly Garcia spoke during the program, giving the audience a look at the first-hand experiences of a social worker, from the inner city streets of Chicago to the front lines of the emergency room. She said she’s learned a lot working with people over the years.

“As a social worker, I am so very often written into the stories and the lives of the people that I serve,” she said. “The most beautiful life lessons have truly come from the most tragic of experiences, but I’ve learned our ability to preserve through any struggle or any suffering cannot be stopped.”

Garcia recounted her volunteer experience working with a man she had met while delivering food to people in need.

“I can remember one brisk wintry night I met a man who had a lost grandmother that raised him,” Garcia said. “He had no other family, and because he had spent years being her caretaker, he didn’t have any other job skills. He lost everything when she died, including his human spirit and his will to fight. He was standoffish observing me from an emotional distant.”

Garcia said she found herself one day wanting to know his story after bonding for a few months over sandwiches and coffee.

“When I look back on this experience, I realize that my education taught me how to diagnose people, but in order to truly empower people, we need to do more than just diagnose them,” she said. “We need to raise them up by understanding, respecting and having compassion for their struggles instead of just labeling the reasons for their struggles.”

Garcia admitted this is not what her studies in social work school taught her, “but that’s the kind of social worker and human being that I strive to be every single day.”

The event did not rely on spoken word alone to carry out its message.

During the program, a rendition of the flamenco art form dubbed Alegrias de Cadiz was performed by dancer Jennifer Lomeli with accompaniment by musician David Chiriboga.

Oak Park resident Cheree Moore said she was most looking forward to hearing the talk on Arab feminism.

“I think a lot of people don’t understand,” she said. She said people have a tendency to turn to the media and see how they’re portrayed only to find false representations.

Moore said it’s important to hear from someone who identifies as an Arab feminist.

Fiester said she thinks the audience will have many takeaways after sitting in on the talks.

“I’m excited by their content,” she said. “Each one is just so unique. … Not only does (the program) follow the TED format, but how relevant and how approachable is this for our community. I think all of them, someone will get something out each one.”

This held true for River Forest resident Zan Lofgren. She said the talk focused on music therapy stood out to her.

In her talk, Oak Park resident Victoria Storm shared a story about a boy who is non-verbal and how her work in the practice of music therapy helped relax him.

“I’ve heard of (the healing power of music), but I hadn’t heard it labeled that way,” Lofgren said.

This year was Lofgren’s first time coming out to TEDx Oak Park Women.

“I’m surprised by how many people are here,” she said. “I hadn’t heard of the program. I’m surprised by the quality of speakers.”

Fiester gave thanks to the Nineteenth Century Club for hosting the event.

“That’s why I feel having our event there is so special to Oak Park,” she said. She said the program is “using one of our landmarks that embodies, if you will, and embraces women. Why not have our event there? There’s a synergy there that is really quite lovely.”

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