A collective of young, enthusiastic professionals has come together to create TEDx PonceyHighland and will inaugurate a series of programs on Sunday afternoon March 24 at the Plaza Theater.
The mission of the group is to give a platform to those sections of the population that need spaces for their voices to be heard. The event is curated by Ali Reza Punjabi, who worked with TEDx programs while in college. Jennifer Li, a medical student at Emory, is the producer. Preeyal Gupta manages finances, Nureen Bhimani is the artistic director and community activist Munir Meghjani is the group’s adviser.
Talks will be presented by Jasmine Miller-Kleinhenz, “Envisioning the Future of Science,” Shakeel Bhamani, “Beatbox: Beyond Boots & Cats,” Adan Bean, “The Impermanence of Home,” Reza Bhiwandiwalla, “Disrupting an Industry: Making Artisanal Indian Ice Cream,” and Luis R. Alvarez-Hernandez, “Oppressed by Freedom.”
Alvarez-Hernandez is a licensed clinical social worker who has worked with diverse populations from the homeless to college students in the Atlanta area. A native of Puerto Rico he moved to Georgia to finish his social work studies and is now a doctoral student at the University of Georgia. He has given numerous talks and workshops on cultural sensitivity, homophobia and transphobia, and anger management. Atlanta INtown spoke with Alvarez-Hernandez about his talk.
You will be talking about how the freedom of speech can have negative impacts on minority communities. Can you talk about your topic and how this issue has touched you personally?
We live in a country that prides itself on the role freedom plays in our everyday life. However, we tend to not have conversations about the responsibility that comes with that freedom. When we talk about freedom of speech, we usually don’t have the conversation about how what we say can affect others. My talk explores how we can use our right to freedom of speech in a way that is responsible and compassionate. This issue has touched me personally as a holder of multiple marginalized identities. I constantly hear adjectives used to describe parts of who I am that do not accurately represent me. As a clinical social worker, I have also seen how hateful messages directly affect many of the clients I have seen throughout the years.


Can you tell us about the TEDx PonceyHighland event?
I am very excited about this event. The event is an opportunity for oppressed voices to have a forum. The main theme is “unearthed” and in a way we are not just bringing our topics to the light, but shining the light to make our messages visible. I feel that this events empowers us and the minority communities we represent to say “here we are and we now require your attention.”
How do you prepare for a TED talk?
For me, the process for preparing for a TED talk required a lot of introspection. There are many parameters to follow, of course, but a big part of the preparation was clarifying my own values and thoughts about the topic. I am talking about freedom of speech, so I wanted to make sure my words reflect my intentions: I am not just talking about freedom of speech I am also exercising it in my talk. The producers and curators of the event played an important role in my preparation. They provided me with guidance and reassurance while also allowing me to use my own right to freedom of speech to prepare this talk. That to say, 18 minutes of a talk come after many weeks and months of preparation!
For tickets, visit this link. For more information, visit the Facebook page.