Join the movement: Spotlight on David Jones

April 22, 2024

As we celebrate our 50 years of championing the humanities throughout the state, we’re spotlighting some of the people who’ve joined us along the way and contributed to the cause through their donations, time, energy, skills and creativity.

To mark National Poetry Month, we spoke with David Jones, who was an important part of launching the Rain Poetry project in Philadelphia as a teaching artist. Jones was named Philadelphia’s third Youth Poet Laureate as a 17-year-old in 2015, was involved with the Philly Youth Poetry Movement (now the Philly Slam League), and delivered the commencement poem when he graduated from Temple University in 2021. As he shares with us, he is currently a teaching artist and content creator, and pursuing his passion for writing in Washington, D.C.

Can you share the impact PA Humanities has had on you?

PA Humanities, by way of Rain Poetry, prepared and empowered me as a teaching artist. I was trusted with lesson planning and teaching haiku workshops to elementary school students across Philadelphia. It was an opportunity that helped me become an educator. 

I was still working full-time at Vanguard (Financial Services) while participating in the Rain Poetry project. After the first stint of workshops, I shared the story of Rain Poetry in a work meeting. My senior manager at the time was amazed and said something that stunned me: “This is extraordinary. Why are you working here? Why not keep doing that?”

Deeply confounded by these questions weeks later, I found her in the hallway and confronted her about the questions. She replied: “You seemed so passionate about what you were talking about. I thought you might want to do that.” 

I began my exodus from finance and my pilgrimage to the classroom.

A month or so later, I was teaching Algebra II & Statistics at my alma mater, Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School. It was the most eye-opening experience, yet it’s only a chapter in my story. 

One thing about art is that it’s a constant process of starting over.

PA Humanities gave me the courage to keep pushing my passion for writing forward. 

I can now be found in Washington, D.C. still writing, and not just poetry. I’ve begun publishing personal essays centered around coffee on my blog Rebrew in collaboration with Keep Roasting. I will never be too far from Philadelphia, my true home. 

PA Humanities probably did not intend to change my life, but it did.

David Jones leads a workshop with elementary school students.
David Jones, one of several former Youth Poets Laureate involved with the Rain Poetry project, leads a haiku workshop at a Philadelphia elementary school.

What message would you like to share with those who’ve been part of the journey so far and/or those who will join the movement in the years to come?

There will always be a place for art and humanities in the beautiful state of Pennsylvania, especially with PA Humanities moving the needle.

How do you see the role of PA Humanities and its importance to the future of Pennsylvania?

This organization is fostering a greater community of artists in the state, breaking down county-sized silos, and championing the arts and humanities in such a way that artistic vocations will continue to be viable for this generation and the next. As laws change, government funding fluctuates, and we transverse through the advent of this dangerously gorgeous tool, artificial intelligence, we must support the people and organizations that keep arts and humanities alive and well. 

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