Ignite Houston Returns at University of Houston Downtown

Ignite Houston at Intersections 2016 Speakers, Organizers, and Host

Last week’s return of Ignite Houston teamed up with Intersections, an annual two day conference that focuses on the cross-sections of culture, sustainability, prosperity, health, and social justice in Houston. For those that are unfamiliar, Ignite Houston is an event that started in 2010 as a platform for speakers to share ideas with an audience of business people, entrepreneurs, and students. But there’s a catch: each presenter only has 5 minutes to present their idea over 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds. The spirit of the event and the presenters themselves can best be summed up by Ignite Houston co-organizer Daniel J. Cohen, “Everyone who is doing this speech tonight is brave.”

“Everyone who is doing this speech tonight is brave” – Daniel J. Cohen

Nerve-wracking as it may be, each of the night’s eight speakers captivated the audience’s imaginations with their own unique styles of rhetoric and presentation. From the audience’s perspective, the organizers did an excellent job. The event took place on the lovely patio of UHD’s campus with Houston’s skyline glowing in the distance; Oddball Eats brought their incredible falafels; Fat Cat Creamery brought their hard-to-beat homemade chocolate and vanilla ice cream; and local legends St. Arnold’s Brewery provided their seasonal lager.
But among all the fun, an undercurrent of contemplation rippled through crowd. The theme of Ignite Houston 2016 was “Ideas for Social Change”, which is always an important topic, but felt especially relevant and crucial following what might have been the the most unusual election in US history.
Speaker Highlights
The charismatic and debonair Emmanuel Lee AKA Outspoken Bean used primarily personal photographs to help tell the story of how he discovered slam poetry while in college and went on to found Meta-Four, which now touches the lives of around 1,500 students a year thanks to a partnership with writer’s in the school. His slides made the audience feel like they were there with him during moments that defined his journey: photos of performing, celebration, meeting personal heroes, and working with students.
Emmanuel Lee AKA Unspoken Bean

Magdalena Francois Thurin, the second speaker of the night, dove deeper into the idea of using art for social change. She began with a strong, simple claim, “Art is not accessible to all and this is a social issue; there’s a direct link to quality of education, access to art, and poverty.” Magdalena held a magnifying glass up to this link by expertly stitching together historical, nonscientific, and sociopolitical facts. In five minutes, she kept her audiences’ minds and hearts engaged as she reminded us what art does for the human soul: “Art is essential to human expression, and by robbing children of that it robs them of a voice when they grow older, which is especially dangerous for already underprivileged youth.”

Magdalena Francois Thurin

Community Business Hour host John Whaley AKA Jony Profit broke down the different roles we all play in an economic system, how those roles relate to the exchange of resources in our economy, the emotional catalysts that drive economic decisions, and what those considerations mean for our culture. “If we understand each other, we can work together,” said Whaley. “I believe if we do that, we can go far, and fast, thanks to technology and social mobility”.

John Whaley AKA Jony Profit

 Socially conscious architect, Courtney Brinegar, outlined the growing problem of gentrification in Houston communities; “We have communities here that lack basic resources like grocery stores. These are food deserts; areas with more than a 1 mile between them and the closest grocery store”. Brinegar went on to outline, in broad strokes, her compelling idea to combat that issue that includes “decentralized markets throughout the city built to the scale of a convenience store to create and open approachable market crafted from locally available material, even junk, to signify to residents that hope can be created from what’s lost.”
Courtney Brinegar
16-year-old Gabriel Poveda showed the audience how oil subsidies are a barrier to ingenuity, growth, and a free market. Poveda proposed that the United States should eliminate the special interests of the fossil fuel industry, which would allow renewable energy to compete and be an incentive for oil companies to innovate and move towards cheaper, cleaner, alternative means of energy. The final words of Poveda’s speech struck a chord with everyone that attended Ignite Houston 2016: “Innovation is where left meets right. For conservatives, we need fair capitalism, a free market so that there isn’t government overreach. And for liberals, now more than ever, we need something bipartisan that can break through gridlock and perhaps kick-off the fight against climate change and save this one planet that we all share.”
Gabriel Poveda
Neal Murthy- tactile game creator, theorist and owner of Nefer Games, shared with us the power of play in a historical and personal context. Neal revealed to the audience something we all know deep down but may not always consider: that the concept of play is something that is so natural to us that the world will always have it, no matter what. Be sure to check out Sedis, one of his more recent game systems that empowers players to create and discover their own ways to play.
Neal Murthy

January Advisors founder Jeff Reichman taught us how we can use data to tell a story; his example used a map of Houston that showed a concentrated amount of low level marijuana arrests in low-income neighborhoods. His speech hit close to home; UHD is surrounded by bail bonds operations and is a stone’s throw from the Houston courthouse in downtown.

Jeff Reichman

Jason Arcemont- philanthropist, entrepreneur, and owner of BrightBox Brand Marketing, brought the audience along his trial of personal endurance to bring awareness and hopefully end child sex trafficking in collaboration with Love 146. In October of 2014, Jason ran 30 marathons in 30 days to cross the State of Texas as an attention-grabbing effort to fight human trafficking. His speech urged others to get involved with anti-trafficking efforts in the months leading up to Super Bowl LI.
Jason Arcemont

If you’re interested in attending or speaking at the next Ignite Event, like the Ignite Houston on Facebook and contact the organization.

Attendees and speakers socializing, networking, and discussing ideas after the night’s speeches.

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