King Weatherspoon doesn’t hold back with words. Whether it’s through speech competitions, poetry or writing lyrics for his band, the 17-year-old Hawken student strives to find ways to translate his own experience into the written and spoken word. A lover of discussion, he also organized a digital online forum to talk about the racial disparities in America. As a sophomore and junior, he qualified for national high school speech and debate tournaments.
Speak Up: When Weatherspoon started at Hawken as a freshman, he felt overwhelmed. “I was this very Black kid in this very white world,” he says. “I felt like I needed to find my place.” While he’d always enjoyed writing, he didn’t know how to use his voice and was shy. Then he found speech and debate, and he wrote and delivered his first speech on the legitimacy of Ebonics. “It unlocked every door,” he says. “I just saw my world open up.”
Talking Points: After the death of George Floyd, Weatherspoon took it upon himself to organize a digital forum for people to tune in to and discuss questions he prepared surrounding Black Lives Matter. “Youth around my age are constantly told that we lack experience or that we don’t know enough,” he says. “We do have ideas, we are driven, we are determined and we can change the world.”
Trust In: Weatherspoon was removed from his birth mother’s care at 8 years old and was the new kid at 10 different schools before receiving a scholarship at Hawken. The biggest thing those experiences taught him is to have confidence in himself. “I’m not talking like ask-your-crush-out-on-a-date kind of confidence,” says Weatherspoon, who was officially adopted at 15. “When you have your feet planted in your sense of purpose, it’s really like magic.”
History Lesson: One of Weatherspoon’s favorite subjects is history. “I feel as a Black man I have this personal responsibility to understand what came before, so I can understand today better,” he says. “Literature gives me a voice, history gives me context.”