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Embracing a colorful world

TEDxUNC: Colorwheel challenged audience members to embrace a more nuanced and colorful understanding of humanity.

Imagine Circus performs at the start of TEDxUNC February 10, 2018 at Memorial Hall on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

A sold-out crowd in Carolina’s Memorial Hall was challenged to rethink their notions of a black-and-white world at TEDxUNC on Feb. 10.

Organized by students, the annual TEDxUNC conference showcases ideas worth spreading, with this year’s theme of Colorwheel confronting a binary worldview. Nine guest speakers encouraged the audience to re-examine how they see the world through three subthemes: challenging the binary, introducing color and exploring the color wheel.

The five-hour conference explored diverse ideas, people and disciplines — from visual arts to biotechnology — that add color to our world.

“The world is colorful,” said TEDxUNC co-curator Alexa Schleien. “Let’s embrace it, even though it makes the world more complicated.”

Susan King, the dean of the UNC School of Media and Journalism and who served as the emcee of this year’s event, said TEDxUNC isn’t a lecture, but an interactive conversation.

“You are really a part of today’s enterprise,” King told the audience. “You are bringing your own perspective, your ideas and your points of view to your experience today.”

The event began with speakers questioning the binary lens through which many people interact with the world around them and talked about the problems with viewing the world in this way.

Chérie Rivers Ndaliko, an assistant professor in the music department, discussed her own transformation from operating on her assumptions to instead embracing a more refined view of the world through personal experiences in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Other speakers, including Carolina student Samantha Farley, inserted color into this binary optic to elevate the audience’s perspectives and encourage embracing a more nuanced and colorful understanding of humanity.

The event, organizers said, showcases Carolina’s mission of innovation and entrepreneurship — both in the curriculum and in student life on campus.

“We’re a leading university in the country,” Schleien said. “We should both be able to create ideas and recognize where good ones are coming from. I think this conference does both.”