After emotions and tensions throughout the country became heightened following the presidential election, SoulFood Coffeehouse in Redmond opened its doors to give community members the opportunity to come together to discuss how they have been feeling.
Co-owner Kevin Oaks said they held an open mic and people with varying opinions took to the stage to share both their hopes and fears about what the incoming president and his administration could mean for them.
“It went pretty well,” he said.
When they planned the evening — which took place on Nov. 16 — Oaks said they did not know what to expect. Between 30 and 40 people were in attendance and it was an all-ages event. Oaks said an older gentleman and SoulFood regular said he was encouraged to see so many young people, from their late teens to mid 20s, coming out to be with their community.
A common theme from the evening was people’s fear. Oaks said people discussed the civil rights and equal rights movements that have been fought for generations and how that progress could be lost so quickly.
“We’ve got a fight ahead of us to preserve (the rights gained from those movements),” he said.
Oaks acknowledged that SoulFood as an establishment tends to run on the more liberal side of the political aisle and he would have liked to hear from more conservative people at their event. He said only one person from that side of the aisle spoke at the event.
SoulFood has held similar open mic-style nights in the past to allow people to come together and process their feelings when major events have happened.
In addition, the coffee house hosts regular events throughout the month.
One of those events is poetry night, which has been running for about 10 years, the cafe’s longest-running event. Oaks said sometimes they will have teachers read poetry at these events before they open it for others to share with the audience.
On the first Saturday of the month, SoulFood hosts a general open mic. Oaks said the event is pretty popular and while it is typically geared toward music, they do get other performers. SoulFood’s monthly open mic nights begin at 6 p.m. and can run as late as 10 p.m. or midnight, he said.
Personally, Oaks said open mic night is his favorite event because it is “always a really fun night,” with first-time performers as well as seasoned veterans. People are very supportive and they encourage each other to bring out the best of themselves, he said.
The coffee house also has an astrology night on the last Wednesday of the month, book signings and public and private music recitals.
There is always something going on, Oaks said.
He added that they have an upcoming event to introduce people to Yes Cascadia, an organization focused on environmental activism. Oaks said they hope there is enough interest in Yes Cascadia to hold regular events with the organization.
One of the reasons Oaks and his wife Makia came to own SoulFood was because they wanted it to remain a community coffee house where people could come in and get to know their neighbors. He said these types of spaces are something that have been lost in today’s culture.
Historically, communities have had places where people could come together under one roof to share and talk with each other. Now, Oaks said, people are more focused on just getting something to eat or drink and then going off onto the next thing.
As society becomes more fast paced, the Oakses continue to work on creating a space where people feel welcome and they can come together and get to know each other.
“We are still a community,” he said.
SoulFood is located at 15748 Redmond Way.