My team is tired. I am tired. We are a 100% BIPOC-led and staffed organization of artists, immigrants, and children of immigrants. We are queer, gender expansive, and fight most days to resist buckling under the pressure of social norms that would have us believe that we are only valuable when burnt out, spent, undone. My colleagues represent dimensions of diversity, which is to say, each of us fights for every sliver of joy we have in our lives.
As a first-time Executive Director, I’ve observed the ingenuity of our Production team, who figured out hybrid programming. I experienced our Program staff inviting young people to come as you are through dialogue and writing exercises that elevate their fears and futures. Our Marketing and Communications team lifts up emergent artists’ voices and tells stories of how artists are builders of new worlds. I’ve witnessed our Advancement, HR, Finance, and Accounting staff work with great vision and strategy in an economically uncertain landscape to make our internal systems strong for the months and years ahead.
Collectively, we’ve done all this while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic that’s had a disproportionate impact on the very identities and communities that we are part of, and serve. We’ve experienced the racial revelations of 2020 only to see little meaningful change happen. And like you, we read the news and see the constant assault on the rights of women, gender non-conforming siblings, our LGTBQIA+ community, and so many who are ignored and cast away by our society.
It’s tiring, now, even to list our tiredness.
And we are poets.
So, we believe change towards justice and collective liberation is imminent–our namesake. But this requires creativity, which first demands safety and space.
So, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to rest. Starting Friday, July 21st- August 5th, the Youth Speaks team will be out of office, or offscreen as it were. Youth Speaks is not unique in offering time off during the summer, but we are proud to be aligned with The Nap Ministry which teaches a framework of “rest is resistance” and Scalawag Magazine which also instituted an office closure to invest in their staff’s well-being.
When we regroup in August, I can’t wait to hear what excited, entranced, or entertained our team. What did you create? What ocean made you forget? Who did you meet, by surprise? And did they inspire you to remember with your hands, as well as with your words? In the second and third weeks of August, we’ll be taking time to connect with each other on a personal and professional level and to prepare for the new program year. Our team will be back to respond to invitations, actions, and collaborations after August 19. We thank you for the space your patience affords our incredibly hard-working team during one of the most challenging seasons of our shared history.
I hope you get a moment of rest during these summer months. We need each and everyone one of us at our best to face the challenges ahead, and to live in the power and optimism that this moment demands.
We’ll see you on the other side of our rest.
We firmly believe that the internet should be available and accessible to anyone, and are committed to providing a website that is accessible to the widest possible audience, regardless of circumstance and ability.
To fulfill this, we aim to adhere as strictly as possible to the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (WCAG 2.1) at the AA level. These guidelines explain how to make web content accessible to people with a wide array of disabilities. Complying with those guidelines helps us ensure that the website is accessible to all people: blind people, people with motor impairments, visual impairment, cognitive disabilities, and more.
This website utilizes various technologies that are meant to make it as accessible as possible at all times. We utilize an accessibility interface that allows persons with specific disabilities to adjust the website’s UI (user interface) and design it to their personal needs.
Additionally, the website utilizes an AI-based application that runs in the background and optimizes its accessibility level constantly. This application remediates the website’s HTML, adapts Its functionality and behavior for screen-readers used by the blind users, and for keyboard functions used by individuals with motor impairments.
If you’ve found a malfunction or have ideas for improvement, we’ll be happy to hear from you. You can reach out to the website’s operators by using the following email
Our website implements the ARIA attributes (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) technique, alongside various different behavioral changes, to ensure blind users visiting with screen-readers are able to read, comprehend, and enjoy the website’s functions. As soon as a user with a screen-reader enters your site, they immediately receive a prompt to enter the Screen-Reader Profile so they can browse and operate your site effectively. Here’s how our website covers some of the most important screen-reader requirements, alongside console screenshots of code examples:
Screen-reader optimization: we run a background process that learns the website’s components from top to bottom, to ensure ongoing compliance even when updating the website. In this process, we provide screen-readers with meaningful data using the ARIA set of attributes. For example, we provide accurate form labels; descriptions for actionable icons (social media icons, search icons, cart icons, etc.); validation guidance for form inputs; element roles such as buttons, menus, modal dialogues (popups), and others. Additionally, the background process scans all of the website’s images and provides an accurate and meaningful image-object-recognition-based description as an ALT (alternate text) tag for images that are not described. It will also extract texts that are embedded within the image, using an OCR (optical character recognition) technology. To turn on screen-reader adjustments at any time, users need only to press the Alt+1 keyboard combination. Screen-reader users also get automatic announcements to turn the Screen-reader mode on as soon as they enter the website.
These adjustments are compatible with all popular screen readers, including JAWS and NVDA.
Users can also use shortcuts such as “M” (menus), “H” (headings), “F” (forms), “B” (buttons), and “G” (graphics) to jump to specific elements.
We aim to support the widest array of browsers and assistive technologies as possible, so our users can choose the best fitting tools for them, with as few limitations as possible. Therefore, we have worked very hard to be able to support all major systems that comprise over 95% of the user market share including Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Opera and Microsoft Edge, JAWS and NVDA (screen readers), both for Windows and for MAC users.
Despite our very best efforts to allow anybody to adjust the website to their needs, there may still be pages or sections that are not fully accessible, are in the process of becoming accessible, or are lacking an adequate technological solution to make them accessible. Still, we are continually improving our accessibility, adding, updating and improving its options and features, and developing and adopting new technologies. All this is meant to reach the optimal level of accessibility, following technological advancements. For any assistance, please reach out to