Student, poet, football chaplain: Meet Noah Humphrey

Noah Humphrey ’23 M.Div. is a person who becomes more interesting with each new thing you learn about him. Among his multiple talents and roles: He published a book of poetry on his experience living in South Central L.A. Under the name Knowa Know, he created a video artwork that was featured as part of a Yale Schwarzman Center virtual exhibition last year. And not least, this onetime collegiate football player (Whittier College) served as assistant chaplain for Yale’s football team this past season.

YDS News sat down with Humphrey to learn more about his endlessly varied pursuits.

YDS:  What path took you to YDS?

Noah Humphrey: I submitted an application to YDS early that spring before COVID locked everything down, and when I found out I was accepted I called my parents in Hawaii—it was very early in the morning there—telling them of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I was accepted to other graduate programs, but I ultimately chose Yale because it offered the best place for me to succeed and fulfill my career passions.

It was tough doing “zoom school” my first year. I would have to wake up around 3 a.m. for some of my classes. It was the strength of God, my peers, and the Graduate Writing Lab that got me through. My parents had moved to O’ahu during my senior year as an undergraduate and I joined them later that spring of 2020, doing undergrad work along with contributing as a settler of the sovereign nation of Hawaii via community service, activism, and learning as much as I could about the land.

YDS: From your book of poetry, Morgan Boy, what is the line you would recite if you had to choose just one? Why is it meaningful to you? What does “Morgan Boy” refer to, by the way?

NH: I would choose a line from my poem “Picket Fences”: Hatred dies when you know everyone’s story. It is meaningful to my environment in South Central Los Angeles. The street I lived on, Morgan Avenue, is what inspired me to write the book. Where I come from, many don’t have the opportunity to spiritually and physically write their scripts. Those opportunities are taken away through senseless violence or other issues that are rampant within my community. I want to make sure that the area where I come from is given its roses and hope for what’s ahead. My poetry book is not just my own story but the story of so many others who have staked their claim in the heart of South Central. I want to run it up for them!

YDS: How did you get the idea for “Picket Fences” and the related video piece “Picket Fences: Black Covid-19 Recollections”?

NH: Through my grief. I lost my friend Davon “Rico” Spillers at age 21 from Covid-19. I wanted to show my grief but also the rise of something greater that speaks beyond the violence, beyond the injustices happening in this world. Most importantly, I wanted to give rise to what it means to paint your own story. “Black Covid-19 Reflections” comes from a heart weary from social injustices and grief. I am honored by the collaboration with Andre Griffith from C1 Media in using video to give my words extra power.

YDS: How did you end up doing chaplaincy work for the Yale football team, and what was that experience like? How did you console the players after that heartbreaking loss to Harvard?

NH: I sent emails to the team and the head chaplain, Craig Luekens of Athletes in Action, saying I would love to join the team, and they accepted my offer. All I could do at first was network with them virtually because I was in Hawaii before the semester began. I loved my time with “Team 148” and did all I could, on and off the field, to be someone they could depend on, in terms of water service, friendship, and spiritual advice.

The Harvard loss was tough. I found comfort in knowing that my God lives longer than The Game. Coach (Tony) Reno said it best. Not all that you try to do will go the way you want it; that is how life goes. The result was not what we wanted, but I know that God has greater plans for both institutions in terms of building strong leaders for what is next in this world. God willing, I’ll be back with Team 149 to run it back and get the results we wanted—in a friendly and loving manner, of course—against the team from the North.

YDS: After graduation, what do you hope to do in life?

NH: I want to be a pastor and a chiropractor who utilizes prayer in supporting my patients. After graduating, I will use my degree from Yale to teach and continue my own education by enrolling in a doctoral program in chiropractic or other forms of alternative medicine. I am very flexible long-term, but for now I will stay with my path to become a spiritual leader and healer in the context of pastoral care, chaplaincy, chiropractic work, and other forms of healing and professional care.

November 29, 2021