Sunday, July 21, 2024



14 made-up awards for Ignite Philly 21’s hella intersectional speakers

Neil Bardhan talking about breakfast sandwiches at Ignite Philly 21. October 26, 2018 Category: EventFeaturedLongPeople


Update: Two more Ignite Philly organizers have been added. (10/26, 12:57 p.m.)
Ignite Philly has traveled a long journey.

In 10 years, the local installation of the global event series has become an intersectional space that allows for the collision of dozens of this city’s wonderful, sometimes-weird subcommunities.

Here, the event format, which features speakers giving five-minute lightning talks, always had a civic bent, at least as much here as in dozens of other cities. Still, though early organizers like Geoff DiMasi, who runs South Philly creative agency Punk Ave, and David Clayton, who leads STEAM initiatives at the University City Science Center, always identified as artists and collectors of do-goodery, they were very much creatures of Philadelphia’s early tech community.

So Ignite Philly became an early social gathering for the city’s web designers and project managers and engineers. But over the last 10 years, organizers of the event series have continued to feature speakers with an ever-wider array of social good focuses.

DiMasi and Clayton, who still organize, have been joined by a rotating cast of others, including Girl Develop It ED Corinne WarnshuisInteractive Mechanics Director of Impact and Engagement Jos Duncan and Indy Hall staffer Adam Teterus, plus guest curators such as Uva Coles, a workforce development executive who recently left a long tenure at Pierce College for Widener University.

It figures then that 10 years later, the 21st Ignite Philly would complete the journey. Once a staple of seasonal social coverage for our sister site, Ignite is a social good event. Hence, it’s a Generocity story now. Though that civic element was always there, a clear transition has happened — according to polling collected by the event organizers, half of the attendees were there for the first time.

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Held Thursday night at beloved Fishtown concert venue Johnny Brenda’s (where the event has almost always been hosted), more than 120 people watched a dozen speakers discuss issues ranging from mentoring young women to diversity recruiting to culturally informed education for Black and Brown children.

Still, as a tip of the hat to that early coverage, let’s recap the speakers with a few awards.


Founded by social worker Karen Krivit, the Philly Goat Project at Awbury Arboretum near West Oak Lane offers an array of programming to educate, inspire and rehabilitate residents. From goat yoga (uh huh) to landscape clearing to animal engagement for people with special needs, this is “a new category of workforce development,” she said. “We find peace in the city through goats.”


The road less traveled can lead to far more interesting results, promised Elissa Bloom, the executive director of the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator. “Take time to self reflect,” she said. “It’s OK to stop something you don’t enjoy.”


When teen mom “Sincerely” Syreeta Martin learned that Temple University was cutting its housing for students with children, she remembered something her mother would tell her: “It’s not about you.”

When confronted with a problem, think about how it affects someone else and solve it for you all. So Martin led an effort to lobby the university to return the unique offering. Now she’s making it her mission to support non-traditional housing for students and others. She’s learned how to work with institutions: “Withholding to leverage and giving to gain”


The 1969-founded Philadelphia Academies concept of putting work-based, vocational learning inside existing schools has been copied widely. Chief of Staff Cheryl-Ann Lafferty shared how career technical education doesn’t have to come with low expectations — including a biotech program.


Young Michael Frank — “shoutout to the under-25 year olds” — is growing a movement with his Philadelphia City Repair Project, asking residents to clean and clear vacant and unused parts of the city. This year they hosted the first of what they hope to make an annual festival of cleanups with community-informed, purpose-built spaces.


Proud Howard University alumna Courtney Taylor woke up from a nightmare that her son was the victim of a police shooting. She reminded the crowd of the frightening disparity in violence among Black and Brown people, something she does not want her young son and daughter to confront. “I want my son not just to grow up, but to be great,” she said.


You might not think the guilty pleasure you derive from the entire Jurassic Park film franchise would be so well-defended. Yet there was Amanda Crawford-Staub, an alumni engagement staffer at The Green Program by day, explaining that Michael Chrichton’s rich fictional universe has powerful lessons about our relationship and understanding to the environment. In short, we must not just think if we can do something, we must think if we should. …. Oh, and she was dressed as a dinosaur.


Raphael Xavier grew up on break dancing and hip-hop culture. So you’d think being temporarily paralyzed would destroy everything. Nah. So what’s your excuse?


As a young Black girl going to Philadelphia public schools, Zuri Stone, an educator with YouthBuild, knows representation can mean everything for a kid’s success in school. But in a largely non-white school population, there simply aren’t enough Black and Brown teachers.

Educators must learn the cultural context of the students they teach, and it starts with an acronym she uses for trust: Truth, respect understanding, safety, transparency. “If an educator can’t offer that to a student, you can’t educate,” she said. Remember: “Change happens at the speed of trust”


Kaitlin Thompson brought national nonprofit Little Bellas to Philadelphia, including its programming to train girls and young women to trail ride in collaborative, mentor-rich female environments. So far, they’ve taught 88 girls how to ride bicycles, and she has plenty of photos of cute kids on bicycles in Fairmount Park.


If Kadine Anckle had stayed in Panama, where she grew up, she might not have developed a good enough sense of American culture to shape its very edges, as she does now as a showrunner on Most Expensivest, a web series on Viceland featuring rapper 2 Chainz.

So though she was shocked as a teenager to be moved by her hard-working mother to suburban West Chester, she now sees it as a crucial turning point. Somehow, she said, her white high school friends who taught her how to smoke weed were an important part of that cultural blending. The lesson: Workforce preparedness can come in any manner of ways.


There was a time when Ignite Philly speakers were a crush of technologists and entrepreneurs talking about their work, or sometimes their strange and mostly unrelated or random side passions. This night showed an Ignite far more tilted toward social justice, equity and representation.

But then there was Neil Bardhan, quirky sciences PR guy turned storytelling marketer, who gave a talk about him making a map tracking his favorite breakfast sandwiches in Philadelphia. (At the third Ignite in 2009, two web entrepreneurs launched a sandwich blog.)

As event organizer DiMasi put it, it was “an old-school Ignite talk.”


If you think we’re still working on beating the Philadelphia self-hatred, Kevin Chemidlin has some words for you. Whatever the motivation, the young entrepreneur is 24-episodes into his Philly Who podcast and says he already has 10,000 streams. Give it a listen — hey, this writer was even on an episode. “My mission is to convince Philadelphia of its greatness,” he said.


Diversity recruiter Kenneth Johnson wants you to make sure companies don’t need him anymore. So ask your own organization about its diversity plan.


As has become customary at Ignite, event organizers gave a $1,000 check to a previous speaker. This time, Michael O’Bryan accepted on behalf of the Village of Arts and Humanities, the celebrated North Philadelphia youth and culture community center.


Ignite Philly

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