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Alex Tha Great keynote helps students advocate for issues

UNK Louie Loper

The UNK Office of Student Diversity & Inclusion hosted a seminar with spoken word poet, playwright and diversity activist Alexandria Gurley. Alex Tha Great’s seminar was titled “Follow the Leader: Recognizing Our Ancestors, Forging Our Own Paths.”

The primary purpose of this seminar was to help train young people to become leaders and advocate for the issues they are passionate about. 

“Are you using all your gifts?” Gurley asked. “Have you tapped into your full potential?” The answers to these questions should be no, according to Gurley. Everyone can continue growing in their gifts and tap into their potential in developing new and different leadership skills. 

Gurley shared a quote from author and pastor John C. Maxwell: “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.” Leaders have vision, a capacity for knowledge and practical experience. 

Alex Tha Great talked about the five types of leaders: luminaries, entrepreneurs, managers, organizers and networkers. Luminaries live in the world of ideas and often ask, “Why?” Entrepreneurs live in the world of opportunities and ask, “Why not?” Managers live in the world of systems and ask, “How?” Organizers live in the world of tasks and issues and ask, “What?” Luminaries live in the world of connections and ask, “Who?” Gurley identifies as a networker and an organizer. 

The seminar included five key points from Gurley. The first one was, “Take what you can from your ancestors and build from there.” 

She asked attendees to stretch their arms as far as they could. Once they had, she told them to stretch farther. “Sometimes we don’t see our full potential until we are pushed,” Alex Tha Great said. “We often place limits on ourselves that don’t necessarily have to be there. We can do more if we practice being uncomfortable.”

A second point made was everyone can be a leader. Alex Tha Great believes anyone can advocate for a cause, and using art is an excellent method of doing so. 

Gurley shared a quote from novelist James Baldwin, “It’s the job of the artist to speak the voice of the people.”

The third tip was, “Your relationship to the movement cannot overpower the message. It’s your job to share the spotlight or pass the baton,” Gurley said.

“Lead with power and not authority,” Alex Tha Great said. She states authority requires access, which not many people have. “Power is encompassing of everyone, authority is a me perspective.”

Her final point was leaders utilize all of their resources. 

According to Alexa Tha Great, good leaders repurpose the resources they already have to make modifications to their leadership styles. 

Many students ask Gurley when the right time is to advocate for a cause. She believes people are motivated by a firepit or a bed of rocks. 

Firepit motivation is an immediate call to action. 

“There has to be something that hits you and motivates you into action almost immediately,” Alex Tha Great said. “The cause is affecting you daily, but at some point, it will move you into action.”

Alex Tha Great ended the seminar by reading her poem “I Denounce My Blackness Daily When Black Privilege and White Privilege Collide.” She reminded everyone they could be a part of the next generation of leaders. 

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