TEDxMiddlebury 2015: Caught in the Act

The theme of TEDxMiddlebury 2015 was “Caught in the Act”, which aims to spark dialogue or discourse about the the boundaries we create, the spaces we navigate, and how our identities and work play out in the world. It suggests an awareness of one’s surroundings, an appreciation of grey areas, and the importance of certain pursuits, especially when they cross arbitrarily constructed lines.

TEDxMiddlebury 2015 Speakers:
Joshua Allen 
Joshua Allen is an organizer, abolitionist and modern day freedom fighter whose work revolves around race, gender and policing. After graduating high school and relocating from North Carolina to New York City on their own at 16 they overcame bouts of homelessness and economic disparity to commit their life, work and labor to organizing for social justice. Known affectionately throughout New York City organizing spaces as ‘Baby Assata’ they carry on the work of their familial legacy of Black Panther Party members to end the imperialist project and bring about black liberation. Their interest in organizing and activism sparked from early childhood visits to wrongfully imprisoned black radicals and family members for engaging in political work. Their organizing work has been internationally recognized and as a result they have been invited to organize, facilitate and share their work in cities across the globe from San Juan, Puerto Rico to London, United Kingdom to Montreal, Canada. Operating at and organizing from the intersections of racial and gender justice nationally, they have been on the cutting edge of movement work. Their local work has been an instrumental part of New York City’s grassroots organizing landscape since 2012 and the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement. They continue to play an important role in direct action organizing in Manhattan and Brooklyn by leading a decentralized urban campaign to end the genocide against trans, gender non conforming and non binary femmes, women and girls. Professionally they organize at FIERCE NYC, a member led organization for queer, trans and gender non conforming youth of color, facilitate workshops, trainings and talks at colleges, universities and conferences both nationally and internationally and are continuing to develop work that bridges the gap between racial and gender justice.

Joshua Allen: A World Without Cages


Enrique BalcazarEnrique “Kike” Balcazar has worked on Vermont dairy farms for over 3 years and joins Migrant Justice staff as lead farmworker organizer on August 1, 2014.  His mother and father worked as dairy workers in Vermont and Kike first got involved with Migrant Justice during our our successful driver’s license and bias-free policing campaigns. Kike became a community leader and spokesperson—testifying in the Vermont State House helping win support for these groundbreaking campaigns.  Since Kike joined the staff of Migrant Justice he has helped lead and build a successful campaign that has secured a commitment from Ben & Jerry’s to source their milk in compliance with the human rights of farmworkers.


Brendan O'Neill Headshot

Brendan O’Neill has nearly 20 years of experience working as a community organizer and educator starting in the Peace Corps in Honduras in 1996. He worked as the Campaign Coordinator of Action for Community and Ecology in the Regions of Central America (ACERCA), from 2001-2005, building international support to challenge the impacts of industrial development on indigenous and rural farming communities in Latin America.  Additionally, he worked as an Adjunct Instructor at Burlington College, SUNY Plattsburgh, and St. Michael’s College teaching courses on Latin American Studies, globalization and resistance movements. Since 2007, he has worked closely with Vermont’s immigrant farmworker communities first as an ESL Teacher and later as a founder and full-time Development and Campaign Coordinator of Migrant Justice.

Brendan O’Neill and Enrique Balcazar: From Death to Dignity



Elizabeth Ready is a lifelong Vermonter. She is the Director of John Graham Housing and Services that provides five buildings of service supported housing to homeless families and individuals in Addison County. She is an advocate for people who face poverty and discrimination. She represented Addison County in the Vermont Senate as a progressive force-to-be-reckoned-with for 12 years, and served as State Auditor for 4 years. During her tenure in Montpelier she worked for economic justice, human rights, and environmental conservation. She lives in Lincoln, Vermont.

Elizabeth Ready: This Precious Life


Head Shot 2- The Lady B

The Lady B is Seattle’s première TransFabulous, Femtastic, Draglesquing, Sass-Mouthing Negro. She is a visceral story-teller, performance artist, community organizer, activist, Twerkshop facilitator, and graduate of Middlebury College. She investigates how politics are projected onto and performed through the physical body through the lenses of race, sexuality, orientation, gender, and ability – responding through the performance mediums of burlesque, original choreography, Drag, and the spoken word. The Lady began her dance training (twerking, krumping, and winding) on the inner-city streets corners and basement parties of Cleveland, Ohio. Coupling these physical dialects with the New Age Buddhist practice of movement as meditation (Sacred Arts Holistic Center), she pursued the study of modern dance and political science at Middlebury College (Class of 2013). She now serves on the Board of Operations for Lily Divine Productions (non-profit production company serving the queer community through event production, grant funding, mentorship and artist development), and as a facilitator for Ingersoll Gender Center (peer support group for trans and gender variant people). The Lady is also a member of the Maison de la Bête (Drag House), an active member of the Seattle Burlesque community as well as an independent event producer and hostess. In dedication to honoring intersectional identities as a social scientist, trans (cendant) person, and feminist, The Lady explores the complexities of expression and experience of gender fluidity in conversation with popular culture, domestic legislation, and personal narratives. The ultimate goals of her work are to engage, to connect, and to empower marginalized minorities.

The Lady B: Voice and Vulnerability: Healing the Scars of my Political Body


Pasted image at 2015_10_02 05_10 PM-1Wagatwe Wanjuki is an activist and writer who started blogging about feminism and campus rape culture while a student at Tufts University. Since then, she continued her work using new media to create social change as a digital strategist for several progressive nonprofits including ColorOfChange, Free Press, and RH Reality Check. Currently a staff writer at Upworthy, Wanjuki has also written for Feministing, Mic, RH Reality Check, ESSENCE magazine, BuzzFeed, and the New York Times. Her work as a prominent anti­sexual violence activist has received widespread media attention when she started the nationally trending hashtag #SurvivorPrivilege on Twitter. As a prominent campus activist, Wanjuki became a founding co­organizer of the Know Your IX ED ACT NOW campaign that holds the federal government and institutions of higher education accountable for protecting the civil rights of students through ensure access to education free from sexual violence. Both Jennifer Baumgardner’s “It Was Rape” and “The Hunting Ground” have featured her activist work as a national leader working to end sexual violence on campus. In addition to these documentaries, Wanjuki has appeared on The Daily Show, HuffPost Live, Democracy Now!, and MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes.

Wagatwe Wanjuki: The (literal) cost of not believing survivors


Wanna Headshot (1)

Casey Wanna is a current Junior Feb at Middlebury College. She is a Psychology major with a minor in French and Arabic. She returned to Middlebury this year after spending almost two years abroad. Her departure from the campus was quite sudden, and it ended with her in the Atlanta Center for Eating Disorders for almost six months. During that time, she grew and expanded herself in ways she never believed possible. She was officially discharged from the Center in May 2014 after undergoing testing that marked her as having no residual signs of an eating disorder. After those six months, however, she was not ready to come back to Middlebury. Instead, she chose to experience life with her knew found strength and wisdom. Her adventures led her to teaching English to adolescents in Rabat, Morocco, working as a childcare coordinator in Mexico, and most importantly discovering how her new identity fit into a much larger world. Her experiences in this year of travelling have taught her in ways a classroom simply cannot. As she reintegrates into the Middlebury lifestyle, she is finding that she has a calmer focus and a healthier outlook. With this unique insight, Casey hopes to become a therapist for other girls struggling with eating disorders. Having gained a perspective that others do not recognize, she believes that her understanding could help girls overcome the deadliest mental disorder. She also hopes to encourage body positivity among people of all ages — a process that begins with this TED Talk. On the stage, she will be speaking from an insider’s perspective to reveal little known facts about the hidden and often stigmatized world of eating disorders and to expose some of the concerning problems created by our culture’s unattainable and yet all-consuming body ideals.

Casey Wanna: A Punishing Principle


(Due to complications, Marco Mezzavilla was unable to join this year’s conference as planned.)

Marco Mezzavilla‘s passion for technology and creativity stems from a uniquely hybrid education. His career began with pursuing a diploma in Classical Studies in Castelfranco Veneto, Italy, the birthplace of Giorgione, founder of the distinctive Venetian school of Italian Renaissance painting. Marco then completed his B.Sc., M.Sc. and PhD in Information Engineering at the University of Padua, Italy, a historical academic institution founded in 1222, which inspired revolutionary minds like Copernicus and Galileo. His doctoral dissertation covered crucial radio aspects related to the deployment of next generation wireless networks, with a particular focus on 4G LTE cellular. During his studies, Marco spent one year at UPC in Barcelona, Spain, as part of an international student exchange program. He carried out his Master Thesis at NEC Europe Labs in Heidelberg, Germany, and, as part of his PhD, he spent six months at Qualcomm Research in San Diego, USA. Now a Research Fellow at NYU, in New York, Marco co-leads the design of novel radio communication protocols to match with the key disruptive technologies that will define 5G, the future paradigm of wireless connectivity. Marco is a Technology Evangelist and co-Founder at Snapback, a core-technology startup based in Rome, Italy, focused on developing new, intuitive ways to interact with smart devices, which provides a natural and powerful user experience by reinterpreting the available technology as a user-centered environment. He is co-founding two additional early-stage startups, both based on a more human-driven concept of technology. His research interests include 4G/5G broadband wireless technologies, millimeter wave, full duplex, convex optimization, short range communications, big data, smart society, context awareness, virtual reality, gesture recognition, user experience, human to machine interfaces. His passions are liberal arts, food, snowboarding, friends, his camera, and music.