In unity with our differences

Building-BridgesI attended two memorable events over the last long weekend that is worth writing about. The first event was on Saturday, May 14, at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies. It was TEDxBridgetown Talks.

I first became acquainted with this event a few weeks ago, when my eldest daughter told me she had been invited to participate this year. As with everything else today, when you want information you google it.
So I googled TED Talks and was able to find out more.

For those who may not know, TED Talks is a global activity.

According to Wikipedia, TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a global set of conferences run by the private non-profit organization Sapling Foundation, under the slogan Ideas Worth Spreading. TED was founded in February, 1984, as a one-off event. The annual conference series began in 1990.

TED’s early emphasis was technology and design, consistent with its Silicon Valley origins, but it has since broadened its focus to include talks on many scientific, cultural, and academic topics. TED events are also held throughout North America and in Europe and Asia, offering live streaming of the talks. They address a wide range of topics within the research and practice of science and culture, often through storytelling. The speakers are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging ways they can.

Past speakers include Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Al Gore, Gordon Brown, Billy Graham, Bill Gates and many Nobel Prize winners.

Since June, 2006, the talks have been offered for free viewing online, under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons licence, through As of March, 2016, over 2,400 talks have been freely available on the website. In June, 2011, the talks’ combined viewing figure stood at more than 500 million, and by November, 2012, TED talks had been watched over one billion times worldwide.

For Barbados, TEDxBridgetown describes itself on its Facebook page thus:

TEDxBridgetown is an educational event that creates a hub for innovative thinkers, dynamic practices and pioneering solutions.”

And on its website: “In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a programme of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx programme, but individual TEDx events are self-organized (subject to certain rules and regulations).”

Living up to its description TEDxBridgetown did indeed have an event worth attending. In celebration of Barbados 50th year of Independence, and under the theme Crafting Our Fate, an impressive array of speakers from different backgrounds and expertise presented. They were ordinary people doing extraordinary things and definitely for the most part with Ideas Worth Spreading.

And the great thing is that all these talks will be available free of charge when they are posted online.

Such events and exposure to ideas that help build Barbados are so very important!  Oft-times, regular persons are going about their business achieving extraordinary feats, but the general public is unaware. Bringing these persons to the fore helps in spreading their ideas and either help duplicate their efforts or give assistance to their cause.

I was extremely impressed with a young lady who had achieved a tremendous amount academically, despite losing her vision at the age of six years. Her goal is to make Barbados even more accommodating to persons with disabilities and not to see them as different, but all part of the whole society.

Her achievements and ideas, along with those of the others presenting that evening, were articulated onstage in front of an audience but will eventually be available globally via Internet. Barbados and Barbadians are certainly “punching above their weight”. Congratulations to the organizers!    

The other event –– incidentally, also held at the Cave Hill Campus –– was on the public holiday, Monday, May 16. It was the coming together of youth of the various faiths/religions in Barbados to play in two sports. The event was organized by the Religions Subcommittee of the 50th Anniversary of Independence Celebrations Secretariat.

The first of its kind for Barbados, young men and women from several faith traditions in Barbados participated in a futsal competition, and a combined faith team playing cricket against the UWI
Blackbirds side.

Futsal, a five-a-side, small goal, football competition was played by seven teams. The teams were made up of young men and a couple of young women from different Christian denominations, and one Muslim side.

It was an extremely exciting series of matches starting in the morning and ending in the evening. I applaud those young people for their stamina and determination.

In the hot sun playing all day was something many young people would perhaps shy away from. These youths nevertheless played to their hearts’ content, and, in the end, after going to penalties and “sudden death”, the Muslim boys emerged victorious.

The cricket was equally exciting. The 15-over match was expected to be a walk in the park for the UWI Blackbirds, but impressive work by the combined faith team, made up of young men of several Christian denominations, and Muslim and Bahai faiths, made the task much harder for the Blackbirds. They clinched victory, but not before being down to two runs from two balls with only one wicket left.

The organizers would like to see similar events as we go forward. Bringing young people together who share different views, religious persuasions and ideas can only help in building bridges of understanding in our society. This interaction can be lost outside our schools as we retreat in our zones of comfort.

It augurs well if in the spirit of uplifting events such as sporting activities we can play together and in the process appreciate our differences.

(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace, secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI.

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