Our city and TEDxJacksonville turned a former cynical New Yorker into a fan


By Sabeen Perwaiz Syed, organizer & executive producer, of TEDxJacksonville
The Florida Times-Union, Nov. 24, 2021

Ten years ago, on Thanksgiving Day, I packed up my life and moved to Jacksonville, Florida. I was following my heart to be with my new fiancé in a city I knew nothing about.

A cynical New Yorker at heart, my expectations were low. New York will always have a piece of my heart. But Jacksonville has given me so much more than New York ever did: it pushed me to grow into a leader I never knew I could be.

Ten years later, as I look around at the home and community I’ve built here, this cynical ex-new Yorker is filled with gratitude.

I moved only knowing my husband and his family. I quickly found my tribe with TEDxJacksonville, a local chapter of TED.com. The organization was just starting, and a handful of bright and committed doers had agreed to try to focus on ideas worth spreading in Jacksonville. I jumped right in and it is one of the best things I ever did for myself.

Through TEDxJacksonville, I learned I can lead a team, advocate for a shift, and most importantly that Jacksonville has so many amazing things that need a spotlight to truly shine and grow.

TEDxJacksonville has always been about the people of Jacksonville. There is something beautiful and hopeful in creating space for others to flourish.  These people give so much of themselves to the city they love – the same city that has given so much to me.

Like Deyona Burton, former senior class President of Riverside High School, who spoke last month about “what’s in a name?”’and why students need to be part of the decision-making process for decisions that impact them.

TedxJacksonvilleOur city has the best people. People who aren’t afraid to get to work. People who are optimistic and passionate about creating change. People who invest in others.

Through working with an all-volunteer team of 20, I fell in love with Jacksonville and its most valuable asset: its people. They are truly one of a kind. I have built lifelong friendships, a career advocating for nonprofits, found sincere mentors, and a lifelong partner who all make me proud to call Jacksonville home.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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