PRNEWSWIRE/TULSA, OKLA - Just as President Barack Obama's stirring 16-minute, 11-second keynote address, "The Audacity of Hope," supercharged the career trajectory of a young state senator who would go on to become a two-term president, Courtland Warren's galvanizing 18-minute, 47-second TEDTalk detailing the Tulsa Race Massacre hails as his masterpiece.
The 44-year-old Warren crafted a timely message of unity and healing, utilizing the unlikely spark point of a riot, the elevator of the Drexel Building in Tulsa. What happened in that elevator would leave Tulsa's Greenwood District — 34 blocks of homes, churches, businesses and people — deliberately burned to the ground.
Without aid of a script, Warren executed a vocal reenactment that transported audiences on an emblematic elevator ride up to a top floor "colored bathroom" and back down — through the ashes of Tulsa — and dropped them off at a threshold of hope.
Now referred to as "An Elevated Talk On Race," the heavily applauded delivery was presented before a virtual audience, amid a global pandemic, national racial unrest and one of the most heated presidential campaigns in modern history between outgoing Republican President Donald Trump and the Democratic victor, President-elect Joe Biden.
Warren's gripping, sermon-like oratory looms as a bonfire of optimism during the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre.
In 1921, Tulsa's Greenwood District, dubbed "Black Wall Street," was the most affluent community of African Americans in the United States, a thriving model of self-sufficiency, economic growth and money circulation. Overnight, an innocent incident in an elevator — when a Black shoeshine boy accidentally tripped and inadvertently bumped a white female elevator operator — ignited flames of anger and hatred that divided the city. Devastation, bloodshed, murder and bombs persisted for two days, May 31 and June 1.
"When I travel the country and speak, few people know that there was a 'Black Wall Street,'" Warren said. "Feeling the racial tension that exists in America today, I wanted to use the TEDTalk platform to speak on a historical subject that, though sensitive, could demystify senseless division. I felt that a metaphoric elevator ride could be the vehicle to elevate emotional intelligence and inspire healing."
With his moving performance, Warren beckons listeners to hold a symbolic elevator door open for the next person, to visit different floors to experience other cultures and ways of life and to ask others where they are headed and offer help.
Warren, an African American, speaks to audiences that are predominantly non-Black, range from 35 to 55 in age and are middle to upper middle class.
"As I travel from red states to blue states, the difference is definitely felt," Warren said. "It seems that there is more shock yet adoration in red states. My articulation and delivery, I feel, are under closer examination. After my talk is done, I receive more apologies in red states, from White men in particular, who recognize the error of their prejudgments. And to be fair, I recognize my own perception biases, because with red states being less diverse, I feel a greater demand to deliver in such a way that there is no room to poke holes in what I've said."
Warren says that he experiences more high fives from audience members in blue states.
With 15 years on the public speaking circuit, Warren has logged 10,000-plus hours in training and facilitating. He has shared the stage with Les Brown, Wayne Dyer and formidable titans in personal development. Countess corporations, including Coca Cola, UPS, Chick-Fil-A and Lockheed Martin, utilize Warren's expertise as a presenter and trainer. Warren's one-on-one leadership coaching for California congressman Anthony "Tony" Cárdenas incorporated a focus on empathy and authentic communication, further cementing Warren's ability to sculpt the talking points of elected officials.
Warren's individual and group sessions on resilience and post-traumatic growth have been attended by more than 1,000 individuals via Zoom during the volatile post-election season.
"Because our world is in the midst of incredible change, particularly changes of the guard in political leadership, I see demand for talks on race relations, perception bias, and diversity and inclusion," Warren said.
And when it comes to addressing these topics through the power of speech, he adds, "Those who ignore the mastering of human relations do so at their own peril."
The impactful global coach's "Resilience Training" became a successful two-night virtual event attended by more than 500 participants in South America. Since Warren doesn't speak Spanish, translators were utilized.
"Global unity is important because we are moving into a more connected society," Warren said. "Those who only speak to one demographic or lead with a bias towards an ethnicity or a country will soon find themselves extinct. The majority has begun to embrace that we are better together."
Warren further stated that it is imperative for political leaders to remember that they're serving a diverse constituency that is challenged, frustrated and afraid, citing the prevalent division across America.
"Joe Biden's pledge to 'restore the soul of America' and his team of Kamala Harris, the first woman, first South Asian, and the first African American Vice-President; Lloyd Austin, the first African American Head of Defense; Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay Senate-confirmed cabinet member; and Rep. Deb Haaland, the first Native American Interior Secretary, and others, reflect a commitment to inclusive policies and practices."
Warren also said, "What's absent in today's conversation on history are facts. What is present is fear. When a country buries evidence of what is really happening, as in the case of the Tulsa Race Massacre, healing and reconciliation cannot take place."
Warren reflected on how he was influenced by the words in Martin Luther King Jr.'s prophetic "I Have a Dream," speech, when King spoke of a world where people are judged by the content of their character.
"I have learned the power of storytelling and the impact of empathy spoken by leaders," Warren said. "Also, I recognize the responsibility of influencers to speak possibilities into the lives [of those] who are listening. What is conveyed on stage, screen or in judicial spaces has the power to create or destroy."