The first-ever TEDx conference in Bayonne, a 2022 motivational speaker-based event, was held at the Bayonne Family Community Center at 259 Avenue E on April 21, put together by Bayonne locals eager to make a change and start something new in their community.
TED, a non-profit organization which aims to promote “the idea of spreading ideas,” began in 1984 as a conference about “Technology, Entertainment and Design” before becoming an established non-profit. Since then, the conferences and their approximately 18 minutes or less TED Talks have been hosted worldwide by the organization.
TED Talks feature a lineup of short, informative, and motivational speeches given in front of live audiences that are recorded and shared online on YouTube and social media as well as other platforms. The TEDx Talks are the localized version of the wider reaching TED conference.
With this year’s theme being “re.think,” the TEDxBayonne conference was co-organized by Bayonne residents Maxim Sokolov and Carissa Lintao. Lintao is also running for an At-Large seat on the Bayonne City Council in the upcoming May 10 municipal election. Before the conference began, both gave a short speech recognizing the hard work and dedication of the volunteers and organizations behind the conference.
Lintao thanked the two primary sponsors that made it possible, inlcuding BCB Bank and Provident Legacy Real Estate. She also thanked other entities involved in making the night a success, including Unshakable Productions and Journey Community Church for the space and video and audio production, Starta VC for providing space for rehearsals, Double Batch Bakery for donating custom TEDxBayonne cookies, and all of the entities involved and volunteers at the event for their contributions.
The event was emceed by Bayonne’s own Issa Musharbash, who said the conference was all about ideas. As such, he encouraged the audience to consider one thing in their lives they should “re.think,” among other things they can rethink in their lives, during each talk.
“TEDxBayonne was founded in the spirit of nourishing great ideas and giving them a platform like this to spread,” Musharbash said. “TEDxBayonne is an annual independently organized TED conference which aims to bring a TED-like experience to the community of Bayonne. We bring the leading thinkers and doers to share ideas that matter in any subject. Our goal is to make this conference a catalyst for Bayonne’s progress as a community and to serve to inspire and change their lives and their futures.”
TEDx talks are not so much a normal conference with back-to-back speakers, but more like a television show. Speakers can restart as many times as it takes to get a good camera shot of them speaking through their entire speech. This played out throughout the event a few times, as speakers shouted “Line!” to which a TEDxBayonne volunteer in the audience would respond with the first few lines of the paragraph of the speech the speaker was reading. Then the speaker would pick back up as if nothing had happened. It made for an interesting look inside the making of the famous TED Talks usually viewed online, as well as a touching experience hearing each speech first-hand.
There were six speakers selected, with two being from Bayonne themselves. The heartfelt speeches occurred over a two-hour period, with a short intermission following the first three speakers, which began with Ilknur Eren.
Ilknur Eren started the conference giving a talk about “The Power of Reclaiming Your Name.” Having immigrated from Turkey at age nine with her family, Eren said throughout her life she tried to go by different names to Americanize herself. While Ilkner is a common name in Turkey, she sometimes used names similar to her own but often times way different to make it easier to pronounce for others, but also to hide the self-reminder that she was undocumented immigrant and a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient. However, Eren now lives her truth by only going by her real name, and encourages others in her position to do the same despite whatever pressure exists to change to fit in.
“I now like to think that my name is a daily protest that immigrants belong in the United States and these differences that we have are beautiful and what makes all of us interesting,” Eren said. “In reclaiming my name, what was once an embarrassment is now one of my greatest sources of empowerment.”
Michelle Arpin Begina
Michelle Arpin Begina gave a talk called “Talking About Money is Easy, Once You Know How.” She grew up in a family that was outwardly rich, but in reality they were one paycheck away from calamity. However, Begina and her family did not discuss money, due to the perceived taboo nature of the conversation. As a result, she was taken aback when her parents had spent was she though would be her college tuition fund on a yacht without a second thought. Begina’s message is to break the stigma of talking about money first with yourself, then with an advisor, before talking with family, friends, or significant others to avoid similar fates.
“When we lean in and have those conversations with people who are co-creating a financial future with us, like our family, friends, bosses, or even the person who sells you your car, we are able to speak about our shared money problems objectively and effectively,” Begina said. “This allows you to paint the picture of what you want and to begin working together to create the financial future you’re both dreaming of.’
Loyad Booker Jr. gave a talk entitled “Bridging the Gap between Police and Communities.” Booker is a U.S. Army veteran who served 25 years as a police officer with the Bayonne Police Department, is now running on a council slate with Mayor James Davis, and if elected, would be the city’s first African-American city councilman. Throughout his service, Booker has gotten to know Bayonne and outlined what he thinks is the best way forward to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community: by building trust. He told stories of his time on the force to illustrate his points.
“There is a communication gap between law enforcement and community, and we have to bridge that gap,” Booker said. “We need to rethink our approach and start to lead with empathy and compassion… What we have to do, law enforcement, we have to put our differences aside and communicate with empathy… Only when community and law enforcement trust one another will positive things happen.”
Nicos Marcou, a Human Resources professional with Fortune 500 company Ernst and Young, gave a talk regarding “Resumes Don’t Work, Here’s What We Should Do Instead.” Marcou argued that resumes don’t capture the full potential of a person, having worked in HR for more than a decade. He said that the state of work has changed, but resumes have remained the same while there are more efficient options out there. New alternatives could be to assess candidates by other measures from skills assessments online or in person, and additional methods outside of the traditional paper resume.
“Ultimately, there are better alternatives than the resume,” Marcou said. “Maybe we don’t need to get rid of them completely, but we don’t need to obsessively rely on them just for the sake of what we’re used to. You don’t need to be defined by your resume.”
Mike Stanlaw, a certified personal trainer and owner of Stanlaw Fitness Personal Training and Group Exercise Studio in Bayonne, gave a talk called “The Power of Reframing Exercise as Self-Care.” He said people feel guilty taking time for themselves, including time for exercise, but it is necessary to stay in shape as well as for self-care reasons. However, only five percent of Americans get the minimum recommended thirty minutes of exercise each day, which prompted Stanlaw to make it his mission to help people “get their thirty.” He told the story of a marathon runner client who started to lose their way from fitness during the pandemic by coping with stress in other unhealthy ways, but stuck with it, pulled herself back up and beyond, and is now an example of why exercise is not only important physically, but also mentally.
“My personal belief is that physical self care is the absolute best form of self care you can practice,” Stanlaw said. “Physical care ties in with your mental, your emotional, and your spiritual health care… We all need self care daily. Life can change in an instant and if you’re not taking care of yourself, you’ll be less equipped to handle the twists and turns.”
Nathan Lugo is a U.S. Army veteran who gave a talk called “A Veteran’s Guide to Purpose.” Prior to serving, Lugo had dropped out of high school, before trying and subsequently dropping out of community college. Jobless, he said he later found his purpose after joining the Army following a tour in Afghanistan. It started when the wife of a solider under his supervision made Lugo promise her that he would come back home. He made it his purpose that tour to ensure all his soldiers came home safely, and since then delved deeper into the subject of his purpose and how others, especially veterans, can and should work to discover their purpose.
“Out of my military career, it’s that deployment I’m most proud of. Not because of the success of our mission, or medals, or citations received, but because it was driven by purpose, not just passion,” Lugo said. “Living and working with purpose is not nice to have, it is a must have… Finding purpose is not a destination, it’s a journey.”
Sold out conference before a full house
The conference, which sold out within 24 hours, hosted a full house of people who came out to hear each roughly eight to ten minute speech. Every speaker was moving with their words and powerfully conveyed their points on hard-hitting and emotional topics throughout the night.
After the talks concluded, guests were invited to take photos in front of a TEDx Bayonne background and with the speakers, network, and enjoy food and refreshments backstage.
Looking ahead to TEDxBayonne 2023
Following this year’s conference, the Bayonne Community News caught up with Sokolov and Lintao, who are optimistic about future iterations of the event. They are looking to make this a regular staple in the city, however, they are hoping to hand off the organization and planning of the event to others interested in getting the hands-on experience of helping put on the conference in Bayonne.
“It was a shot in the dark,” Lintao said. “People told me to do it in Hoboken, but I wanted to do it in Bayonne. I’m just absolutely blown away by everyone’s feedback.”
“It’s been a very surreal experience, organizing this whole conference from scratch,” Sokolov said. “We look forward to doing this more and we’re looking to really start a movement in Bayonne. We’re looking to build a much bigger team and continue the legacy of it and for me and Carissa to step back and give the management of this to students and people who want this opportunity.”
“We had a blast putting this together, but next year, we want to do it bigger and better,” Musharbash said in closing the conference. “We are aspiring to impact as many people in Bayonne as we can and beyond.”
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.