TEDxGainesville rehearsal

Mary Alford speaks Wednesday during a dress rehearsal for TEDxGainesville: Courageous Conversations at the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre. TEDxGainesville will perform at the Cade Museum for Creativity and Innovation on Saturday Feb.  9 at 1 p.m.


Shaneequa Cannon wants inspiration to be born from her TEDxGainesville talk on Feb. 9.

“I want to live up to my kinetic potential and reach out to everyone and aid them to their own,” said Cannon, a 36-year-old author on her experience with sexual assault. “This is the stage to do it.”

Cannon and nine other speakers will deliver similar messages at the inaugural TEDxGainesville event from 1-5 p.m. at the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention, at 811 S. Main St. The event will also include vendor tables before the talks and three performances during intermission.

TEDxGainesville is an independently organized part of the TED organization, which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. TEDxUF events have been running for 10 years.

Speakers will have 10 minutes to give a talk on an issue in their profession, said John Coffill, a TEDxGainesville spokesperson. The issues will include mental health illnesses and the dangers of not reaching your full potential.

The event is limited to 100 attendees and tickets have sold out, he said.

For the last four years Leadership Gainesville, a 10-month community leadership program, has been trying to bring TEDxGainesville, but hasn’t because members didn’t think it would fix city problems, Coffill said.

After a UF inequity report published in January 2018 showed that more than 44 percent of African American children live in poverty in Alachua County, current members of the group decided it was time to start TEDxGainesville, he said.

“How does Alachua County, University of Florida, Santa Fe College and our community have that much disparity,” Coffill said. “We have to start the conversation.”

The Leadership Gainesville Alumni Association and sponsors budgeted about $17,000 for the event, Coffill said. They are still looking for sponsors.

Heather Sarkis was among 200 other applicants that applied in December for TEDxGainesville.

After a month-long selection process — which involved sending written essays and presenting five-minute talks — run by Leadership Gainesville, Sarkis was one of the 10 selected to speak.

“The TED stage is a great platform to discuss how society treats mental illness,” said Sarkis, a 36-year-old psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

Coffill said if the Saturday event turns out to be a success, Leadership Gainesville wants to make it sustainable and have it in future years.

“This event will start the conversation in Gainesville and it will break social norms for the better in our community,” Coffill said.