With TEDxMileHigh: Rise around the corner (on August 29th), we want to deep dive into the concept of “rise” and what it really means to rise. The act of rising hits differently for people with different socioeconomic backgrounds, life experiences, and privilege. Explore these concepts of “Rise”  as we reflect on what it means to rise in modern times based on unique experiences.

A person can “rise” in two distinct ways. A person can literally rise by getting up from a sitting or lying position. In more metaphorical terms, “to rise” means to stand up, lift others up, and elevate yourself and those around you. However, in this case, rising is not the same for everyone. 

To Rise: The Concepts

The act of rising depends on the person and their relationship with race, class, and gender. In terms of racial equity, to say that Black people face the same challenges when trying to rise as white people do, both currently and in the past, is wrong. In terms of gender equity, to say the act of rising in the workplace is the same for cis men as it is for womxn is wrong.  The concept of “rising” is complex and impossible to define in one article. To start, here are three concepts to consider.

Awaken

[uh-wey-kuhn] – Verb

To become aroused from a tranquil or inactive state

Just as bread will not rise without yeast, people will not rise without an awakening. This is the spark that ignites a powerful change: a realization that the current way of the world is wrong, unfair, and unjust, and something must be done. 

Paula Stone-Williams, a TEDxMileHigh Humankind and Imagine speaker, spoke of her awakening after her transition from man to woman. She realized the constant equity battle women face every day, and how male privilege facilitates that battle.

“I am learning a lot about what it means to be a female, and I’m learning a lot about my former gender,” Paula says. “I have the unique experience of having lived life from both sides, and I’m here to tell you, the differences are massive.” 

Stone-Williams has dedicated her career to speaking and bringing awareness to the issues of gender equality, a career path she wasn’t on as a man. Her example may be unique, but it doesn’t change the point that she has risen to become a force in gender equity, and has given a valid perspective on what life is like for both genders. All of which wouldn’t have happened without her awakening experiences as a woman.

So, what does “awaken” mean to you? Maybe the Black Lives Matter movement has awakened your understanding of deep-seated racism and white supremacy in the U.S. Or perhaps you were already awake. Maybe our country’s battle with COVID-19 has awoken you to the importance of public health decisions and the role the people we elect into office play in those decisions.

To awaken is the start of the concept of Rise. No one rises out of nowhere, and the important part is what you do after you awaken.

Deepen

[dee-puhn] – Verb

To bring to a thorough extent or profound degree

Now, you’re awake. It might have happened years ago for you, but you woke up at some point. You’ve come to the realization that something in society or in yourself needs to change. How do you rise to that challenge? A good place to start would be to deepen your knowledge in order to understand your feelings.

Graphic novelist and TEDxMileHigh Rise speaker R. Alan Brooks knows the importance of deepening people’s thoughts in order to understand feelings. In his speaker Q&A, Brooks says, “I want people to use their art to teach compassion, express humanity, and build bridges between people who simply misunderstand each other.”

R. Alan Brooks is a speaker for TEDxMileHigh: Rise. To hear his talk, register here.

Brooks uses his art in the form of comic books. His books explain concepts such as police brutality and white supremacy—and ultimately to learn from the experiences of one another. Brooks believes art can teach compassion, and true compassion comes from a deepened understanding of each other and our experiences.

When you deepen your understanding of a topic, you can learn how you can be most effective in your own experience rising. Maybe you learn that you can make the biggest impact by educating yourself and changing your own thoughts and actions. Maybe you learn protesting is where you can make a difference, so you pick up a sign and join forces with others. 

Change comes in many forms, but it starts with a deeper understanding of yourself and how your thoughts and actions affect those around you. 

Progress

[prug-gres] – Verb

To grow or develop, as in complexity, scope, or severity; advance

Perhaps the most important concept of Rise: progress— keep moving forward, continue, advance, elevate. This is where the change happens. This is where other people see you fighting and realize they should join.

If awaken is the first move, progress is the movement, and it doesn’t always happen as quickly as it should.

TEDxMileHigh Uncommon speaker Gerardo Lopez understands the commitment to progression first hand. Lopez was a member of the MS-13 gang until he realized he wanted his life to mean more. So, he left. “I thought [leaving] was the hard part. But it turns out getting out of a gang is only one part of the equation,” says Gerardo.

Lopez has dedicated his life to helping other former gang members transition back into society. He understands the struggle others face when they decide to leave a gang, and he continues to fight for their opportunity at a better life.  Lopez was 20 years old when he decided to leave the MS-13 and he is still fighting that battle — although it may no longer be his own.

Whether you are just starting your Rise journey, or you’re in the midst of the struggle, keep going. Progression is a process that requires consistency and commitment. Commit to a change and keep fighting.

Antonyms of “Rise”

Retreat. Block. Impede. Prevent. 

These are all antonyms of the concept of Rise. These words collectively mean to stop, hinder, deter. 

Regardless of where you are in your journey to rise, do not let these words get in the way. Bread has to fight gravity in order to rise. The leaders of the Civil Rights Movement had to fight decades of oppression and violence in order to rise. What will you fight? How will you rise? And, perhaps more importantly, how can you help others rise with you?