Caroline Caldwell-Richmond is the curator and director of the program team of TEDxGreenville, a volunteer non-profit organization that presents speakers who encourage discussion about ideas and issues. Caldwell-Richmond began her journey with TEDxGreenville as a presenter in 2014, and she currently leads the team organization and the annual event’s design and speakers. She also is the executive director and founder of New Mind Health and Care, an organization whose mission is to reduce the recidivism rate in South Carolina.
Here, she shares her thoughts on encouraging dialogue and building community:
Our world is very polarized right now in a lot of ways; the only way to solve this is to have more dialogue. When we talk, we begin to understand each other. Understanding fosters respect, and respect allows us to really hear each other, causing an organic shifting of engagement that moves us beyond differences.
For example, I believe race is a made-up construct. The only real race is the human race, but if looking at the construct of racism, there is a very small pool of people who are consciously racist. Most people are not consciously racist, yet they have implicit biases and subconscious thoughts that result in racist words or behaviors. Most people tend to engage with surroundings they are familiar with, and those surroundings are where their values are placed. We sometimes aren’t engaged enough, aren’t listening enough, and aren’t dialoguing enough outside of what’s familiar. When we become more engaged with each other, we make really beautiful things happen.
Freedom of Speech // A key member of the TEDxGreenville team, Caroline Caldwell-Richmond is also an advocate for post-incarceration care and the founder of New Mind Health and Care, which works to lower recidivism rates and decrease stigma.
This is my hope with TEDxGreenville—that our speakers shift paradigms, encouraging dialogue and engagement. It’s not easy to adopt a new way of thinking, though. I’ve learned that with my career. Those who have been incarcerated are oftentimes stigmatized. It’s important to know, though, that returning citizens have many obstacles facing them, so by ostracizing them and denying supports, the chances of reincarceration are huge. America is one of the richest countries in the world, and we incarcerate the most people in the world. I believe in investing in people—not the prison industry.
Public service requires commitment and a lot of emotional labor. When I need strength, I look to my spirituality. I’m not religious, but I am spiritual. I know darkness and light can’t occupy the same space at the same time. So I choose light. I choose to be good. When it rains, I choose to dance—not hold an umbrella.
Each and every person has a story to tell, has something important to share, has an idea worth spreading. TEDxGreenville gives those ideas a voice. I want people to look beyond stereotypes, question their own beliefs, and touch soul to soul. That’s the true essence of where we all intersect.
TEDxGreenville was the first TEDx event in South Carolina that was independently organized. The goal of TEDxGreenville is to bring new ideas to the Greenville community, inspiring conversation and community.
TEDxGreenville’s annual conference is Friday, April 7, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Peace Center’s Gunter Theatre. To purchase tickets, visit tedxgreenville.com.
TEDxGreenville also hosts Salons throughout the year, which are small, monthly events that encourage conversation about predetermined topics through local speakers and discussions. In addition, the organization just began TEDxGreenville Adventures, which bring participants out into the community to learn and engage in topics. For more information about these programs, visit tedxgreenville.com.