WKU students and alumni discuss power of youth in coffee talk event

Tiye Gardner shares her experience in combining social justice issues with her passion to fashion during the Coffee Talk: Youth Got The Power at Spencer’s Coffee on Tuesday, March 12.

Julie Sisler

Gathered in the back of Spencer’s Coffee on Tuesday at 7 p.m., a group of young people sat in a circle. They discuss things like fashion, storytelling, research and how those things relate to the power all youth have.

WKU senior Francis Wilson, a digital storytelling major, organized the event. Wilson has been working on the event for weeks.

“This coffee talk is a time for people in our community to share themselves with others, and appreciate the power and resilience of our community’s youth,” Wilson said.

The event brought together individuals with various academic majors, talents and passions.

“I’ve created this space to bring people together. It is my hope that the time we spend together hearing from each other’s experiences will help us better respect and empower youth in our Commonwealth,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s presentation revolved around research and the power it holds. He delved into his own experiences and how he has used his research and experiences.

Hilarie Spangler spoke on storytelling.

“Basically I’m giving the low down throw down on the power of storytelling,” Spangler said.

Spangler discussed the power of fine arts within local communities, looking at what she calls “the healing power of community based arts.”  She also delved into how storytelling fits into that dynamic and what role it plays within the community.

“Storytelling plays a huge role in how we live and work together,” Spangler said. 

Spangler also discussed methods for community organizing and how her time at the Kentucky Storytelling Association impacted her.

“I’m just hoping that people can start to realize that we are all storytellers, and that it’s really simple to share stories in our communities,” Spangler said.

Other presenters discussed finding empowerment in fashion and planning.

Presentations dug more deeply into how youth can both find power and harness it through their everyday actions.

“We all have a tool kit for creating change and connecting with one another and it’s the simplest things that are a part of that tool kit,” Spangler said. “Our other speakers are all sharing their tool, and mine is the story.”

The evening also dug further into what it means to harness that power and how to find importance in daily actions.

“Is what I am doing just a thing, or is it my calling?” presenter Tyreon Clark said when discussing his own experiences.

The evening also encouraged individuals to find their strengths and use them for the good of not just themselves but to empower those around them.

Through discussions of skills and everyday roles, presenters and attendees alike were able to find the power that youth have in their actions and how that power can be used to spread their voices and spark change.

“It’s so important to uplift the voices of youth,” Spangler said. “There are some incredible things happening in our communities and a lot of them are happening with the younger generation. Not to discredit other generations, but our generation in particular, is challenged to take a grassroots approach to the work that we do and create, and it’s awesome hearing about that work and supporting fellow movers and shakers.”

Wilson said he believes the ideas discussed in the evening’s coffee talk reflect a larger need to both empower youth to make the changes they have the ability to, and encourage other generations to join in encouraging youth.

“Youth voices on and off campus can better this community if we give them space to do so,” Wilson said. “This is about holding space for youth, and teaching others to do the same.” 

Features reporter Julie Sisler can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow Julie on social media at @julie_sisler.