Speak Easy Storyteller's Edition comes to North End on July 21

Nik Cole found herself going through a tough time in her life and felt alone while dealing with past traumas and personal challenges.

She channeled those feelings and created The Speak Easy: Storyteller’s Edition in 2017.

“I wanted to create a space where people could connect,” she says, a safe space based on trust and transparency. She wanted to connect “the hopeful people with the doers.”

At her first event in October 2017, she shared her own story along with several of her friends. She cried the whole time, she recalls, but the idea was for people to share powerful stories that would motivate and engage others to help other people.

At the events, attendees receive numbers at the door and then are randomly called to receive a portion of the proceeds. “They're encouraged to go out in the world and do something good for somebody else and then come back to the Speak Easy and talk about their experience,” Cole says. One of her favorite stories is how one attendee used her proceeds to buy lunch for everyone on the picket line over the past fall at the Westin Book Cadillac. Or if the person who receives the money find themselves in need, they are encouraged to accept it, Cole says.

Over the past year and a half, she’s held events on a quarterly basis, with the next one from 2-6 p.m. July 21 at Oakland Avenue Urban Farm in North End. The theme for the event is “I’m OK!” and features storytellers Candice Fortman, Jamil Norwood, Jamel Randall, and Nikki Studstill. In addition to the stories, there’s also music, cocktails, and food, and Randall will facilitate a short meditation session before telling his story “Life Happens for You.”

Owner of her own business Fork + Knife & Food, Cole is also a trained chef who has worked at restaurants such as Craft Work and teaches culinary classes at Colors Restaurant in Detroit, so she collaborates with chef friends to prepare a spread of food for the events; Sunday’s menu includes barbecue chicken, coleslaw, and homemade pickles as well as vegan options such as collard green salad and black eyed pea hummus.

The menu will also showcase what’s available at her host site, the farm, where she is doing a pop-up store in September. Cole plans to open a bodega called Thank You Mart in North End by July of next year, with similar concepts in different neighborhoods around the city over the next several years.

“In the space we'll get to highlight people who are local [makers], who do amazing things like … candles, produce,” she says, adding the store will offer “ready to eat food, get some coffee, get a snack on your way to work. [Thank You Mart will be] my love letter to Detroit.”

For more information or to RSVP, go to The Speak Easy's website.

This article is part of a series where we revisit stories from our On the Ground installment and explore new ones in the North End. It is supported by the Kresge Foundation.

Read more articles by Dorothy Hernandez.

Dorothy Hernandez is managing editor of Model D. Prior to joining Issue Media Group, she was a food journalism fellow with Feet in Two Worlds and WDET and has contributed to NPR, Thrillist, Eater, and a variety of other local and national publications. Visit her website and follow her on Twitter @dorothy_lynn_h.
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