Recap: Dallas Festival of Ideas

Dallas’ Festival of Ideas, held at Fair Park on Friday and Saturday, February 19-20, gathered not only great minds in the industries of literature, entrepreneurship, health, education and infrastructure/architecture but Dallasites that were completely invested in the improvement of their city.

Bishop T.D. Jakes, in last year’s Festival of Ideas closing remarks called for a united city. “We need a city that is united and galvanized around ideas that we can build to make a change and make things different, and I really think that can be done,” he said.

That United City began to form with the ideas from keynote speakers who lead the charge in each city: Russell Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam Recordings and all-around entrepreneur, for the Entrepreneurial City; Sarah Prevette, founder of the Future Design School, for the Educated City; Alma Guillermoprieto, MacArthur Fellow and Author, for the Literary City; Dr. Jennifer Gardy of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control for the Healthy City and Nikil Saval, editor of n+1, for the Physical City.

The real fun took place Saturday, when festival goers had the chance to attend forums, performances and panels held for each city and provide comments and questions to find out exactly how to forge your place in entrepreneurship or ways to make Dallas a healthier place or what the future of the workplace will look like in Dallas.

Maybe there will be more open office workspaces, or not, we all want our privacy. Maybe walking is the way to a better literary city, more on that later. The best idea I’ve heard while attending: would it be possible to get people, children especially, to visit more cultural and educational landmarks?

There were so many interesting ideas and fascinating aspects that never crossed my mind or things that I never thought were related. Like the above idea, walking towards a better literary city. Keynote speaker Alma Guillermoprieto introduced this idea in her speech on Friday. Panelists Will Evans, publisher and executive director of Deep Vellum Publishing, and author Merritt Tierce would agree.

“People are fundamentally where stories come from. The origin of literary culture is based on interactions with people and you don’t have that in a car or car-oriented city,” Tierce said.

Walking and interactions are not just important for creating stories but for sharing them and other creative things a neighborhood or city has to offer.

“A bookstore is supposed to be a reflection of a city and libraries should be the same thing, because they are important too. They are complementary facets of what makes a really strong community,” Evans said. “A bookstore shouldn’t be a library and a library shouldn’t be a bookstore but what they offer is really wonderful programming opportunities to different parts of the community.”

I was honored and enriched by the potential of what we could offer our city. I looked around and saw the outstretched hands, the cogs of the mind turn and the rolling up of the sleeves that were required to get things done. Gandhi said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him… We need not wait to see what others do.”

That was the sentiment echoed in each panel, don’t wait for someone to fix a problem you see, fix it yourself. Gather people who recognize the problem as well and do whatever in your power to provide solutions or be the filler for a void that may exist and could also be problematic.

The United City isn’t a complacent city, nor is it outdated. It is a place that fosters and supports creativity and mental exploration. It is a city that is capable, capable of doing and giving. It’s a city that I hope will soon come from those who attended the festival because I believe that Dallas has and always had something to offer.


Ateanna Uriri

Ateanna Uriri is a journalism major at UNT and currently an editorial intern for Launch DFW. When she is not at school or interning, she works as a library associate for the Dallas Public Library and is an active blerd (Black nerd) with a love for books, particularly the graphic variety, old films and documentaries.