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THE EDGE


The edge is where creativity thrives and change happens. If you create near the edge, you flirt with greatness and failure every day. The edge is a cliché––the end and the beginning. It’s the needle on the cultural compass that offers a possible direction.


As we create our present, I remain convinced that we must continue to rebuild and reimagine all cultural concepts and ideas. Our songs, languages, stories, myths, dances, clothes, food, and cultural expressions are the strongest and most pronounced braid in the DNA of progress.


There are many people that I admire who live and create from the edge. One I would like to share with you is my friend JR, this year’s TED Prize winner and currently the architect of a ridiculously ambitious and impressively impactful global art project called Inside Out. I met JR about six years ago. His courage, passion, and understanding of true empowerment struck me immediately. His ability to get out of his own way, allowing images and people to reflect their own narratives, continues to amaze and inspire me.


After winning the TED Prize, JR did what a true leader should do––he deflected praise and wished for the world to follow in his footsteps. So the Inside Out Project was born. I was humbled when JR asked me if I had an idea for a collaborative project to undertake in America. I thought about all the dilemmas facing the United States and my mind wandered to the root of our current issues. No story is less recognized, yet more inherent to America, than that of Native Americans. So I called him up and told him that we should head to the Rez.


Two months later, we found ourselves on mighty Standing Rock Indian Reservation near Mobridge, South Dakota, with our brother and cultural connector DJ Two Bears. Forty years after the last standoffs, in the place where the great Chief Sitting Bull is buried,


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you find an extremely impoverished and forgotten community that has suffered unspeakable hardships. This community has some of the highest youth-suicide rates in the U.S. and rampant drug and alcohol abuse. Eighty percent of people on this reservation live below the poverty line. The Lakota and Dakota Sioux have become invisible in mainstream culture.


However the Lakota and Dakota people are still here, fighting daily for their native way of life. Community leaders spend the majority of their time focused on working with their people to preserve the native traditions, history, and ceremonies. Their knowledge is crucial to our collective survival. It always has been. As the world begins to look toward alternative solutions in the economy, environment, and culture, one of the best places to start is with the people who are indigenous to this land.


In this spirit, we took action. We arrived with tools, got out of the way, and allowed the powerful community to reflect their rich culture and turn their community inside out. Always here now we reappear––this is Inside Out––Standing Rock nation.


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