Founded in 1996 in San Francisco, Youth Speaks is a leading presenter of Spoken Word performance, education, and youth development programs. Trailblazers of local and national youth poetry slams, festivals, and more, Youth Speaks offers a comprehensive slate of literary arts education programs and provides numerous opportunities for youth to be published and heard. Youth Speaks has worked with hundreds of thousands of youth and has helped create partner programs in 47 cities across the United States.
Meet the Squad
We envision a world in which young people are heard, honored and connected through creative ecosystems of interdependence and care.
Literacy is a need, not a want, and literacy comes in various forms.
Youth Speaks encourages youth to express themselves using their own idioms.
By connecting poetry, spoken word, youth development, and civic engagement, Youth Speaks aims to deconstruct current dominant narratives by creating a more inclusive and active culture. Young people have the tools to take control of their lives through language and Oral poetry helps define the new American Voice.
Having knowledge, practice, and confidence in the written and spoken language is essential to the self-empowerment of an individual. Youth Speaks fills a need for creative approaches to literary arts education and literacy development. It is crucial to provide spaces where youth can undergo a process of personal growth and transformation in a program that enriches their educational, professional, artistic, and leadership skills.
Youth Speaks, Teen Poetry Slam Champion 2019 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate
“For me, Youth Speaks changed everything. I first got involved in 2017 as a high school freshman. I saw a teen poetry slam video and knew I wanted to participate. Being involved has been a catalyst for everything I’ve done since–from hands-on creative growth and equally valuable, performance opportunities. I realized that I could be compensated for my art and that I could take it somewhere.
Youth Speaks teaches young people to trust themselves and trust the value of their own voices. Right now, so many young people feel rightfully frustrated in the way the world is headed. Youth Speaks give young people a platform, uncensored, to say whatever they feel.”
Community Organizer, Poet, & Teaching Artist
“As someone born and raised in Oakland, I know how important Youth Speaks and the programming it provides is for Bay Area youth searching for accessible, safe(r) spaces to express themselves creatively. I was introduced to poetry as a freshman in college through UC Berkeley’s “Poetry for the People.” Many of my first poetry coaches and mentors came from the Youth Speaks community and were trained in its pedagogy. Youth Speaks opened its doors to me. It provided a framework for me as a young poet, community organizer, and developing arts educator. I learned how to make a workshop fly, was given stages for my poems, and witnessed the living legend that is Chinaka Hodge. We need spaces like Youth Speaks and the team of incredible teaching artists on their squad, to center the voices of young folks and build more & more (virtual) stages for their words to shine.”