John Paul Taylor, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, embodies the concept “be the change you want to see in the world.” John Paul was in and out of the foster care system through his young years. When he finally came to live with his mother permanently, he went to Chilton County High School where he started making his mark as a trail blazer. He was elected president of the student government
association; he was the first black student elected to that position.
Taylor is currently the North Region Outreach Fellow, Alabama Voting Rights Project (AVRP), a collaboration between the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, and the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C. AVRP strives to fulfill the promise of a new Alabama law passed in 2017 that restores voting rights to ex-offenders with felony convictions. John Paul travels the northern counties of Alabama spreading the word about the new law, convening meetings of community stakeholders, training volunteers, and, most important, working with ex-offenders to register them to vote or to help them with the process to restore their voting rights. During these past several months,
AVRP has served over 2000 ex-offenders in connection with their voting rights.
John Paul is co-founder of Real Life Poets, a 501-(c)3 non-profit community service organization focusing on mentoring young people and encouraging good communication and oratorical skills using spoken word poetry and the arts. Taylor’s passion for empowering young people and for using the arts inspires youth of all ages. Taylor appreciates all the opportunities to connect with many community leaders and
organizations. He works directly with groups of young people from elementary school children to young adults encompassing at-risk kids before problems begin to youthful offenders in the Family Court setting to drug offenders in diversionary programs as coordinator of the Hip Hop is Life program for the youth from UAB Juvenile TASC/ASAP program. Always pursuing new goals, Taylor organized the first Alabama
youth poetry slam team to be invited to the Brave New Voices International Teen Poetry Festival in 2013—they finished in the Top 20 in the world. In 2016, John Paul pushed this youth poetry initiative to international scope by launching Real Global Poets, a poetry project in Kenya that produced Your Voice Is Your Power , a book of poetry, and by conducting a Real Life Poets Spoken Word Empowerment
Summit in Ghana in partnership with Awuni Tours. In 2018, John Paul and Real Life Poets appeared on HBO’s Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas discussing over policing and injustice in Birmingham.
His work on behalf of young people reaches beyond poetry and the arts. Taylor has been vice-president on the Board of Directors for Youth Towers, a non-profit aimed to help fight youth and young adult homelessness. Traveling the United States with Shelley Stewart’s Mattie C. Stewart Foundation Choice Bus , John Paul talked with young students about the power of education and the importance of staying
Always learning and growing, Taylor graduated in 2017 in the inaugural classes of both Youth Speaks Institute for Emerging Organizations and the UAB/Gulf State Community Research Fellows Program. In 2016, he launched the Genius Is Common Initiative in partnership with HBO’s DEF Poetry Jam co-founder Bruce George. In 2014, John Paul presented a TedxBirmingham Salon Talk: “Your Voice is
Your Power,” and in 2013, one of his poems was featured in the Emmy-winning film Mr. Dial Has Something to Say .
Taylor has been honored with the following awards:
- "Angela Y. Davis" Vital Award (2019)
- League of Women Voters of Alabama’s Jane Katz Public Service Award (2019)
- City of Birmingham Mayor’s Office Division of Youth Services Humble Hero Award (2017)
- City of Birmingham’s 1st Ever Fusion Award for community service using the arts (2014)
- Jefferson County Public Library Association’s Library Champion Award (2012)
- Southern Poverty Law Center Hidden Community Asset (2012)
- Urban League Multicultural Friendship Award (2010).
September 3rd, 2019 | Season 1 | 52 mins 8 secs
I’d like you to meet John Paul Taylor, founder of Real Life Poets. Real Life Poets is a nonprofit that leverages the creative process of poetry and spoken word as a means to empower youth, that otherwise might find themselves in prison or on the streets. John Paul started Real Life Poets because writing saved him and he wanted to do the same for youth in situations similar to his.