At Youth Speaks, the voices of young people matter

Founded in 1996 in San Francisco, Youth Speaks has long championed a local, national, and increasingly global movement of young people picking up pens and stepping proudly onto stages, declaring themselves present.

We believe that literacy is a need, not a want.

One of the world’s leading presenters of Spoken Word performance, education, and youth development programs, Youth Speaks produces local and national youth poetry slams, festivals, and reading series, alongside a comprehensive slate of arts-in-education programs during the school day, in the after-school hours and on weekends. In addition, we create internationally-recognized theater and digital programming, and have helped launch a national network of over 70 programs who believe in the power of young people.


Through the intersection of arts education and youth development practices, civic engagement strategies, and high quality artistic presentation, Youth Speaks creates safe spaces that challenge young people to find, develop, publicly present, and apply their voices as creators of societal change.


Youth Speaks exists to shift the perceptions of youth by combating illiteracy, isolation, alienation, and silence, creating a global movement of brave new voices bringing the noise from the margins to the core.

Youth Speaks: Bay Area


Committed to a critical, youth-centered pedagogy, Youth Speaks places students in control over their intellectual and artistic development in schools, community-based settings, and performance venues across the San Francisco Bay Area.


Get to know more about the Youth Speaks pedagogy and methodologies through varying levels of professional development programs designed specifically for teachers.


Join us for local Bay Area public events and become an active member of the Youth Speaks family! The best way to learn about what we do is to experience it for yourself.

Youth Speaks: National

Brave New Voices


Brave New Voices is both a network of organizations that invest in spaces that challenge young people to find, develop, present and apply their voices, and an international festival of young writers that features the youth poetry slam.

Life Is Living


Life Is Living is a free celebration of urban life through hip hop and community engagement. We center our work in West Oakland, and work with communities nationwide to launch a Life is Living on their own.

Emerging Artists Programs


Our Emerging Arts Programs comes on the heels of our former repertory theater company, The Living Word Project. We seek to identify and develop artists and companies through verse-based work that is spoken through the body in communication with the social issues and movements of the moment.

The Bigger Picture


The Bigger Picture is a collaboration between Youth Speaks and UCSF’s Center for Vulnerable Populations, designed to take on the environment and social factors that have driven the the rise of the Type-2 Diabetes epidemic.

Off/Page Project


The Off/Page Project is our partnership with The Center for Investigative Reporting and their analytical and investigative lens, to feature a new kind of storytelling in the public sphere.

Raise Up Project


The Raise Up Project is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s American Graduate Initiative, and is a space for young people to join the conversation about the crisis in American public education, and the continuing high numbers of students who do not graduate.

Support Youth Speaks

Your support makes a difference to thousands of young people in the Bay Area and across the country as they work to shape our collective future through the power of the written and spoken word.