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Martese Johnson to speak at TEDx Charlottesville in November

Johnson will address his arrest, national issues facing black Americans

Fourth-year College student Martese Johnson will give a TEDx talk in Charlottesville in November. His talk will address his bloody arrest last March by Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control officers and the current conditions black Americans face throughout the country.

Johnson said he would like to focus less on his own experience and instead place his arrest it in the context of a larger narrative.

"I'm going to talk about instances of police brutality, and also about the development and cultivation of the black man in America,” he said. “My incident is a very small speck of what's been occurring nationally for centuries, so I want to center my conversation on the structural and societal laws that perpetuate a cycle of violence against African Americans."

Johnson said he doesn’t want to be viewed as a victim of racism, but rather an advocate for change.

“I think oftentimes people, when they look at my situation, they think of someone who’s a victim, and I've been working my whole life to deter that image of a victim who is treated a certain way by the system," he said.

This drive is a big part of what made Johnson a good candidate, said Lisa Stewart of the TEDxCharlottesville Steering Committee.

"Martese has a passion for justice and an important message to share about his personal experiences and his vision for informing and transforming the dialogue," Stewart said.

Stewart said TEDx conferences consider the viewpoint and energy a speaker can bring to an event, and she expects Johnson’s talk will inspire others.

“Sharing ideas in a community forum such as TEDx allows for those ideas to take root and gain momentum," she said. "We hope that Martese’s talk will bring positive momentum to the community dialogue on these issues."

TEDx reached out after his Corner arrest last semester, Johnson said. He formally accepted the invitation to speak in May.

Johnson said he isn’t angry or disappointed by what happened to him, but instead is determined to speak out — and TEDx will allow him to do this.

“It would be something to reach the masses, talk about the issues that are directed at the black community, and portray ourselves in a way that's more positive to America," he said on TEDx.


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