Do you like listening to Ted Talks? On Monday, April 15 MSUM hosted the event Speak Up which was created and coordinated by Fleury Clark Girimana of the Dragon Entertainment Group. Clark envisioned the event to be like a Ted Talk and found a compilation of speakers who wanted to share based on the theme, “Elevate”. We interviewed Clark to learn more about his vision for the event and how it went! 

What inspired you to create Speak Up?

I wanted to create an event that gives a platform to any person that has a message they would like to share with the rest of campus. I’ve had incredible professors, and have so many friends with incredible stories that have inspired me. While talking to them, I remember thinking: “It would be nice if more people could hear their message…let’s have an event where everyone can come and listen to those stories.”

What was been the most rewarding part of organizing Speak Up?

The most rewarding part has been the response I got from the speakers. Everyone I reached out to said yes immediately. Some couldn’t make it because of time conflict, but still supported the event.

How did you choose the speakers?

I chose the speakers because I have heard their messages personally, and they were all recommended by various people from the campus, as well as from the community.

The speakers from Speak Up are listed along with short bios below:

Bahati Numbi  “Speaking Up is Already Enough”

Bahati Numbi is a sociology major at MSUM. Bahati shared ideas with us about using our voices and how important it is for us to speak up.

President Anne Blackhurst “Elevating”

Anne Blackhurst has served as the 11th president of MSUM since 2014.  She believes in the power of higher education to change lives—and she believes in the power of students to change the world.

Solfire

Solfire is a mixed-voices acapella group focusing on contemporary pop and rock styles. They performed “Happy Together” and “House of Gold”. 

Talyne Nganansou “Understanding Identity”

Talyne helped create the “Invisible Reality” Project at MSUM that you may have seen earlier this spring. It was an interview and photography based project to explore identity, beauty, race and colorism. Talyne shared her ideas around understanding identity for Speak Up. 

Karen Branden “The Impact of People on one Another”

Karen Branden grew up poor in a small town not too far from here. She attended Moorhead State University (now MSUM) and received her degree in Sociology with a minor in Women Studies. She credits MSU with giving her the opportunity to have a great life and teaching her how to speak up. She loves MSUM and is a proud Dragon.  She has been a Professor of Sociology for nearly 20 years and absolutely loves teaching because of the students. 

Faye Seidler “Understanding the Trans Condition”

Faye Seidler is the founder and clinic administrator of Harbor Health Clinic, the only informed consent hormone therapy clinic in North Dakota. She has been doing cultural competency training for nearly five years and led research into exploring how to effectively communicate this training to various organizations. She is also a community organizer, trans activist, and area resource expert. When she’s not being a workaholic, she’s a huge geek. Faye talked about Understanding the Trans Condition to elevate our understanding.

Ponny White “Poem”

Ponny White is active in many ways at MSUM – you may know her from her role as President of the Black Student Union or as a Resident Assistant. Ponny also played an integral role in co-directing ‘For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf’

Kathryn Hinds “Seeking Perspective in your Journey”

Kathryn is lawyer, with a life-long focus on education, communication, and leadership. She is particularly interested in the processes that encourage engagement, dialogue, collaboration, and building community for the purpose of positive action and influence in the world. She has been teaching undergraduate courses at MSU-Moorhead in communication studies and in leadership studies since 2010. She is the incoming coordinator of the first-year experience course on this campus and serves on academic committees here at MSUM. Kathryn also volunteers as council training chair with the Northern Lights Council, B.S.A. She has a B.S. in Chemistry from NDSU, a J.D. from the UND School of Law, and an M.A. in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University. Kathryn is a member of bar associations in North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, the ABA, and serves on several legal committees. 

Dana Bisignani “It’s not Pie”

Dana Bisignani is the Women’s Center Coordinator and adjunct faculty in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program here at MSUM. She’s also an experienced community organizer, activist, and critical social justice educator. She was awarded the Berenice A. Carroll Award for Feminism, Peace, and Social Justice and was recently nominated for a YWCA Woman of the Year Award. Before moving to the Fargo-Moorhead area and joining the Dragon family, Dana pursued a Ph.D. in Literature, teaching in both the English Department and the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at Purdue University in Indiana. She holds an MFA in poetry. Originally from the South Side of Chicago, she knits, loves Led Zeppelin and coffee, and makes a mean lasagna. Dana’s speech helped us think about how we use our voices and words, and how we frame out speech, moving from the idea of “winners” and “losers” to elevating our thinking to using inclusive language where we all win. 

Taylor Sorenson “Further Purpose” 

Taylor Sorenson is a senior at MSUM majoring in Sociology. He is also a member of The Dragon Entertainment Group and a brother in Kappa Sigma Fraternity. Taylor shared about his life and encouraged us to think about our own further purposes.