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Dallas Festival of Ideas ignites imaginations both young and old

Dallas Festival of Ideas ignites imaginations both young and old

February 25
00:37 2016

Matt Payne | Copy Editor

@MattePaper

Heavy gusts of wind whistled through the lots of Fair Park Music Hall the evening of Feb. 19 as homeless men, women and children wandered outside on the cracked, congested roads in the heart of Dallas-Fort Worth.

More than 1,000 people spent the first night of their weekend in an auditorium, listening to the likes of activists from near and far for the Dallas Festival of Ideas. Several people outside braced for a cold Friday night in the wild city notorious for poverty, pollution and a stark contrast between the sparkling Dallas skyline and those living underneath the interstates.

But this is the inextinguishable pride of diversity the Dallas citizens cling to, seeking to bridge the gap through a community collaboration to harvest new ideas.

“It’s a full moon above a mystical skyline made up of broken promises and neon and night,” slam poet Joaquin Zihuatanejo said in “A City is a Poem,” his introductory piece written for the Festival of Ideas. “It’s a place where your future and everything you left behind have coffee in a late-night diner.”

Big ideas

Speakers gathered by The Dallas Morning News, advocating for their respective causes and setting the foundation for what they wanted the 2016 Festival of Ideas to be.

Words from journalists Alma Guillermoprieto and Nikil Saval, as well as American business magnate Russell Simmons, provided a basis for what they, local government and citizens wanted the city of Dallas to be.

Dena Othman wrote local’s names in Arabic at the Dallas Festival of Ideas. Haley Yates | Staff Photographer

Dena Othman wrote local’s names in Arabic at the Dallas Festival of Ideas. Haley Yates | Staff Photographer

“We need to build libraries so welcoming, so inviting and so gorgeous that students are irresistibly hungry to read,” Guillermoprieto said.

Guilermoprieto also described her time in Mexico visiting the Benjamin Franklin Library, spend-ing hour upon hour learning more about her local society. She mentioned the need for primary students to be taught non-fiction reporting from “an utterly clueless perspective” so they could immerse themselves into their respective societies and thoroughly learn about them.

Striving to make Dallas more literate and establishing a more sound infrastructure, Nikil Saval and Russell Simmons both underscored Guillermoprieto’s vision to build not only an impressively ever-expanding city, but also to build up the residing citizens.

Specifically, Simmons advocated for personal health with anecdotes of his transition to veganism, dishing out harsh words toward city lobbyists and those with sway in entrepreneurship. He implored a call for awareness of the increasing prevalence of carcinogens and toxins in food, referencing his own book published in 2014, “The Happy Vegan.”

“We have people who should be living to 100 dying because of lobbyists exchanging billions of dollars,” Simmons said. “Facts aren’t being given to you because people with god complexes are being paid.”

Big action

Booths from several non-profits decorated The Women’s Museum for the engagement phase of the festival. There were areas for patrons to express themselves through a wall of chalk art, new ideas for the city of Dallas hanging from balloons and several places for adults and children alike to make crafts, share ideas and be open-minded to discussion.

South Dallas T-shirt producing company 9 Happy People donated half of their earnings from the event to local non-profits focused on creating jobs in Dallas County. Nine is a number of gratitude and giving in many cultures, representative Amrit Kirpalama said.

“If one of us has a conversation with nine individuals, they will in turn share their idea with another nine,” Kirpalama said. “Literally, the power of nine has symbolic significance behind it, but that sort of pro-activism is what we’re after.”

Pencil portrait artist Jason Kinney held a mini workshop at the Dallas Festival of Ideas where he showed individuals how to reproduce his art style. Haley Yates | Staff Photographer

Pencil portrait artist Jason Kinney held a mini workshop at the Dallas Festival of Ideas where he showed individuals how to reproduce his art style. Haley Yates | Staff Photographer

Among the company’s donations, 9 Happy People has also donated $2,500 to a group called the THR!VE Leadership and Intern Program, designed to close the economic gap for young black men by “exposing them to meaningful career-related experiences.”

Kirpalama called reaching out to the youth of Dallas as critical to igniting change in the community. He said he noticed one question pervading throughout the entire event.

“‘What are you most passionate about?’” he said. “Having child and adult alike engage in such a simple exchange of ideas will ignite the change we need to see in this city.”

Featured Image: Locals were asked to write down city project ideas on cardstock and hang them from balloons at the Dallas Festival of Ideas. Haley Yates | Staff Photographer

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