In 2012, Lourds Lane charmed the TEDWomen audience playing her violin and sharing the story of her life from child musical prodigy to adult "superhero" self. Lourds recalled growing up in a small house in Jamaica, Queens, where there was a lot of fighting and screaming. At the age of three, she began playing classical violin and piano. She was regularly playing in front of large audiences before she was seven years old. Music was her salvation.
Lourds was never really into superheroes as a child, but as she transitioned from classical music to electric violin playing rock star, she started to think of herself as one. She began performing her original music as the lead singer of her own rock band. Then, after graduating Harvard, she toured the country with her band for years until she found her true life's calling -- empowering youth to discover their superhero selves.
Since her TEDTalk, where she first sang her original song, "I am a Superhero," and inspired the TEDWomen audience to sing along, Lourds has been totally focused on the educational music and arts-based nonprofit she started, the SuperYou FUNdation. It's "superhero curriculum" teaches youth how to connect with who they truly are. "I am a Superhero" is now the anthem for SuperYou students in over 100 schools nationally. The curriculum is currently empowering the largest special needs district in the world in NYC (25,000 students). Lourds tells me, "I just teach kids the things I wanted to hear as a child."
Lourds believes there is a strong need for a curriculum that empowers youth, especially those with special needs, to find their unique voice and to figure out what they stand for in this world. Through critical thinking, writing, music, performance, technology and art, students connect to their real life "superpowers." They choose superhero names, like "Tenacity Tiger" or "Joy Boy," and become accountable for the superpowers they've chosen. Then, they create unique superhero costumes and in so doing, have fun at school, while seeing themselves as powerful at the same time.
Lourds calls it "Common Core with a super hero mask." The SuperYou Curriculum incorporates the Common Core Learning Standards with social emotional learning. So, instead of "comparing and contrasting" characters in literature, students compare and contrast characters in literature to themselves. This constant self-reflection creates a culture of kindness, anti-bullying and respect -- something Lourds believes the world really needs right now.
A partnership with UNESCO has seen Lourds' superhero program go global. The organizations are working together to increase empathy in schools worldwide. This holiday season, Lourds is launching the superhero musical she wrote, "Chix 6," off Broadway at La MaMa Theater. In this global-unifying production, young superheroes from around the world who have participated in the SuperYou program will be streamed into the theater to sing with the cast. According to Lourds, "Every child, and secretly, every adult, wants to let loose and feel like a rock star." Lourds, herself, will also be onstage performing as the electric-violin playing superhero named Rise.
Says Lourds, "Schools teach youth how to become good test takers, but students don't necessarily walk away knowing who they are or why their voice matters. When a child feels valued, they will feel inspired to add value to the world. The only way to stop the violence and bullying is to address the root cause of the problem... just love and empower the child."
If you feel inspired, please show your support to the SuperYou FUNdation here: https://www.crowdrise.com/superyoufun.
TEDWomen 2016 continues a journey that began in Washington, D.C., in 2010, the first major TED conference to focus on the ideas, stories and global narrative of women and girls. The response was overwhelming! Our speakers, both women and men, have come from many different backgrounds and experiences to share ideas and stories in TEDTalks that have been viewed more than 60 million times on TED.com.
Our theme for TEDWomen 2016 is "It's about time." We will be exploring how time and attention shape our very lives. In theory, we've all got an equal amount of time -- 24 precious hours in a day -- and yet, our capacity to harness the most out of it is wildly different depending on our circumstances and state of mind. Together, we'll plot how to push the tipping points even faster and move even slower when it comes to the things we most want to savor and care about.
If you're interested in being present for these TEDTalks and many more on this year's theme, there are still a few spaces left to attend TEDWomen 2016. (After the theater is completely sold out, we will also offer some discounted tickets for simulcast viewing.) We will announce our speaker lineup next month -- find out more and register at TED.com.