Staff members of The Poet Life organization (Courtesy photo)
Staff members of The Poet Life organization (Courtesy photo)

While educators and parents search for innovative methods to encourage learning and child development amid COVID-19, a local poetry organization corrals children and adults together, presenting a platform in poetic expression for a bigger cause.

Inspired by the untimely passing of Justin Izlar, a close friend and victim of sarcoma, Cristoph Jenkins, founder and CEO of The Poet Life organization, created an inspiring coalition of poets performing poetry to garner funding and support for local cancer patients.

“After he (Justin) passed, I wanted to make sure that his family was still being consoled, and just ensure that they were surrounded with support,” said Jenkins.

Jenkins held a poetry event in respect to the one-year anniversary of his friend’s death, unexpectedly garnering community requests for continuity of his cancer support efforts — a further confirmation after Jenkins’ discovery of Justin’s craft, and love of poetry amid his illness.

“News got out, and it actually turned out to be a full-on event to where we raised about $4,000. From there, everyone was asking, ‘What do we do next?’ Jenkins said.

In January 2012, Jenkins began to commemorate his friend and cause with a high-impact endeavor to use the spoken word and the arts to provide comfort for those affected by cancer naming the then-nonprofit organization, “Fight Cancer with Poetry.”

The organization has galvanized poets locally and nationally to raise money to poetically inform people about cancer and generate cash donations to patients.

Jenkins efforts caught on like wildfire, as parents throughout the community became interested in engaging their children with the program.

The Poet Life Academy, created in 2018, is a series of Poetry workshops geared towards K-12 children across the DMV, instilling various linguistic and character development activities through spoken word performances and audience engagement.

The organization partners with Busboys and Poets and at the restaurant’s Takoma location stages weekend workshops that are conducted online to accommodate the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know where the world is going. Why put the time into building a brick and mortar when we can simply go to where they are. They are already home, and we are also able to reach more people. So it’s not just D.C., we can reach people across the world,” Jenkins said.

The Poet Life organization proudly cheerleads for Brandon Leake, Jenkins’ business partner, and the first poet to be a finalist on “America’s Got Talent.”

In honor of Leake’s winning streak, show producers have reached out to The Poet Life organization, requesting submission of a congratulatory video set to premiere on the final episode of the season, as Leake’s supporters cheer him on from Washington, D.C.

“I hope people (poets) are ready to start upping their prices. I hope people (poets) are ready to start writing contracts to where when people reach out to book them, they can say ‘Here’s the contact and here’s the minimum that I’ll take to be paid,’ as opposed to just ‘What are you offering?’ I want to elevate the game, take them to a new plateau,” Leake’s told Cristoph Jenkins on The Poet’s Life Podcast.

“America’s Got Talent” finale is set to air on Wednesday, Sept. 23.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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