Middle School Assembly Spotlights 'Ninja Warrior' Poet

Charles R. Smith Jr., an award-winning photographer, poet, and competitor from “American Ninja Warrior,” visited with Middle Schoolers in a virtual assembly on Thursday, April 29.

Smith told boys that strength of body, mind, and spirit are the tenets that guide his life — and that the seeds of his successful career were planted in a California high school, where he originally wanted to be an astronaut. 

He joined the yearbook committee in an effort to beef up his extracurricular activities, and found himself filling a need to take photos of sporting events.

“I had so much fun that I decided that’s what I wanted to do,” he said.

Smith studied photography after high school, and two days after graduating from college, he moved to New York to begin his career. Inspired by an exhibit of Roy DeCarava’s photographs of Harlem, he put together his own portfolio of street basketball photographs and sent them to publishers, including a publisher of children’s books.

The result was his first book, Rimshots, and the beginning of a prolific career. Smith is now author of more than 30 books, including the poetry collections Hoop Kings and Hoop Queens.

“He is not only a poet and photographer, but an American Ninja Warrior,” said Larkin Nash, co-chair of the Brunswick Parents’ Association committee that helped organize the assembly. 

“That resonated with this age group.” 

Smith competed in the 2017 American Ninja Warrior contest.

Among other honors, he earned the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for My People, a picture book that features photographs accompanying the classic poem by Langston Hughes. 
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Brunswick School Greenwich, CT

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