Scholar Spotlight: Tafari John-King, 2012 Bezos Student Scholar

Catch up with a student Scholar and read their rapid-fire responses to a collection of semi-random questions in the Scholar Speed Round.

By Tafari John-King

5 mins


When Tafari was a Scholar in 2012, he started the Green Ideas Festival in his local community of Crown Heights in Brooklyn, NY. His Festival focused on providing community resources focused on sustainable healthy eating. He organized several community-based events culminating in a day-long activation where guest presenters from throughout New York City spoke to residents about nutrition and the benefits of healthy eating. Reflecting on the impact of his experience as a Scholar when he was in high school, Tafari feels we all can create change in our communities, and for many, the only thing stopping them is their fear of failure.  

Tafari still resides in Brooklyn where he works with recently arrived asylum seekers, supporting them as they navigate all the changes they face integrating into their new community. In his free time, he can be found tending to his backyard garden, obsessively maintaining his 100-day Duolingo streak, or attending live music shows.  

Enjoy getting to know Tafari through ten semi-random questions and answers. 

Share a favorite memory from when you were a Scholar: While at the Aspen Ideas Festival, I remember the Scholar talent show being one of my favorite moments. A group of Scholars and I decided to give an impromptu performance borrowing some props from Mike and Jackie’s house.  

What is currently piquing your interest? I am deeply interested in sustainability and community engagement and am exploring ways to use hemp as a carbon-negative material.

If you had a theme song, what would it be and why? “Alien Superstar” by Beyonce. Every time I hear it, it puts me in an ethereal, otherworldly mood and transports me back to when I attended her Renaissance World Tour. 

Reflecting on a challenge you have faced, what was a choice you made during that time and the change that occurred because of it? When faced with a bout of unemployment I had to decide whether I wanted to remain in the tech industry or explore the public sector. I decided to explore the public sector, feeling I could have a greater impact there. As I look ahead, I hope to only pursue opportunities that have a tangible impact on communities. 

Scholar’s Choice: What’s a new language that you want to learn? I hope to improve my ability to speak Chinese to a conversational level. I also think it would be cool to learn an African language like Swahili.  

At this moment in your life, what are you most proud of?  Speaking four languages and working on learning more! 

Where is the next place on your travel bucket list? Why this location? Next on my list is Portugal. I’ve heard both the city and countryside are beautiful and I can speak Portuguese.  

If you had a podcast, what would it be about? Creating change: Small ideas with big impact 

What is something you’ve learned that you'd offer to others in the BSP Alumni Network as advice? Following your passions will keep your soul fed. It is never too late to pursue your interests. 

What is the one thing you’re deeply grateful for right now? I’m grateful I attended the BSP reunion this September!  

Thank you, Tafari! We’re grateful to have you as part of the Scholar community.