Nate Howard hides in the shadows away from the boiling hot sunrays to prepare for a speech that’s expected in an hour. He’s dressed in a fitted blue suit, jeans and tan leather oxford shoes. Holding his cell phone in his right hand, he views a video of his speech a month prior taking notes of his delivery, stance, and message. This isn’t the second speech Howard will give, but he’s nervous this time around. He’s practiced this speech and desires to deliver it exactly how he wrote it, in full manuscript. His audience is San Diego Grantmakers and tickets for the one-day event are $300 a pop. As the last speaker for the event, pressure strikes Howard as he swiftly recites his speech that is due in a few minutes.
Howard is introduced by David M. Wertheimer, the Deputy Director for Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle along with serving with non-profits, educational and other works. As he steps on stage, it appears all of his bad nerves vanish. The audience is attentive, fully focused on him. It’s once Howard begins his speech, the audience is captured by his message with all eyes fixed on him and phones pulled out to record and snap photos of him. Full of charisma and charm, it’s hard to believe he was just nervous minutes before as he successful delivers his speech.
At twenty-four years old, Nate Howard has many accomplishments. Not only is he a graduate from University of California, he’s worked with musicians such as rapper Ty Dolla Sign, given countless inspirational speeches, and rallied against police brutality along with many other acts. But among all of his accomplishments, he names himself a spoken word artist and public speaker.
We first meet in the Starbucks near his home. Bebop jazz pours out the outdoor speakers as Howard approaches me. Dressed casually in a muted blue, multi-print button down and jeans, his stride appears to synchronize with the music. Sitting across me, Howard pulls out his phone following my actions to begin recording, revealing he’s documenting his experiences for an upcoming book he’ll write about himself and his journeys. As I push record, our conversation feels like a scene in an indie movie.
A native San Diegan, Howard moved to Los Angeles and dipped his feet into the entertainment scene while at USC. However, he returned to his hometown to become a teacher. He works with high school students ranging in diverse backgrounds and incomes in part of his organization called Movement Be.
“Movement Be is this program that focuses on this idea of character development through creative writing, through public speaking, getting you on the stage to find out who you are,” Howard explains.
He further details why he chose to teach at different schools that are unique amongst one another. “The goal – this whole past year – is model my curriculum and lesson plan in these different schools and determine a curriculum that says, ‘your zip code shouldn’t determine your education.’ I’m teaching different things at each school.”
Currently, he works with three schools around San Diego: Monarch School, Helix High, and La Jolla High. His ultimate message for his students is “Tell your story before they do.” The message is something Howard stands and lives for. The purpose is to be confident in who you are, to know who you are and not let anyone label you wrongfully for being something you don’t stand for.
Helix High student Anisa El Amin explained Howard aided her in her writing and to project her voice through words. “I consider him my friend a great mentor because he really expanded my knowledge on how well you can tell a story through writing.” El Amin continues, “He taught me many things about power, inspiration, and what it means to have a story and be the one to tell it.”
Confidently, Howard details, “I know how powerful I am, I know how great I am, I know my story and you can’t control me. I’m not going to react of you trying to put me inside … I’m going to acknowledge it and know that it exists, but I’m going to live my life knowing the greatness I am in telling my story before you do. That bases the principle of so many of us don’t understand how great we are and we live these stereotypes and react to the categories people put on us.”
In late 2014, he began his latest project Young Visionaries with his partner Nitya Timalsina to help connect young people with services and needs. YV began in San Diego and has expanded to other metropolitan cities of LA and San Francisco.
“One day we said what if we pulled together our friends in a group and see what connections come out. Initially it was just our friends, our immediate circles that we put in, but really expanded and think of it as a family for that reason, because everyone knows someone there,” Timalsina said on how YV developed.
On a cool, breezy night in March, friends and young professionals gathered together to establish connections. Howard and Timalsina led the YV event first introducing themselves in a 15 second pitch of who they are and what they do as everyone else followed the same in a circle. After introductions, attendees mingled with one another to discuss further more about themselves and hand out business cards or phone numbers to work together in the future.
When asked why he created YV, Howard said, “There’s so much possibility here in San Diego, and you just gotta meet the right people. You know, it’s kind of like we can bring visionaries from all over the city who are young, who are hungry, who are motivated. And you kind of just bring them into the same room and just let magic happen.”
*Photos by Franchesca Walker