Youth Poet Laureate Program

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The Oakland Youth Poet Laureate program is an unprecedented citywide effort to celebrate literacy through poetry and connect young writers to far-reaching opportunities.

The Oakland Public Library, in partnership with Youth Speaks, Pro Arts and more than a dozen community partners is thrilled to announce 9 finalists for the City of Oakland’s 2014 Youth Poet Laureate competition.

  • Aaron Godinez, 17, Head-Royce
  • Ajali de Veaux-Griffith, 17, Oakland School for the Arts
  • Emily Kim, 16, Oakland School for the Arts
  • Guisela Ramos, 18, Met West High School
  • Imani Diltz, 16, Oakland School for the Arts
  • Maria Cruz, Met West High School
  • Mina Jameson, 16, Oakland School for the Arts
  • Sophia Elkin, 17, Oakland School for the Arts
  • Torin Rittenberg, 16, Bentley High School

The 2014 Finalists will make public appearances this summer. For upcoming events, including our Grand Finale and Anthology Release this August, visit

Each year we accept submissions from talented young writers (ages 13-18) to be considered for the city’s top literary honor. The winning poet earns a $5,000 educational scholarship and embarks on a year of opportunities as an ambassador for literacy, arts and youth expression. In addition to the annual poetry competition, the program includes year-round workshops, public performances, publishing, and mentoring for young writers. Follow us on Facebook


  • Obasi Davis, 17, Berkeley High School – 2013 Poet Laureate
  • Stephanie Yun, 18, Skyline High School – 2012 Poet Laureate

About the Youth Poet Laureate Program

Presented by Oakland Public Library, Youth Speaks and Pro Arts, the Youth Poet Laureate program is supported by more than dozen community partners representing Oakland’s leading arts, education and community organizations. Scholarship funding is provided by the John diTargiani Fund at Youth Speaks and the Friends of the Oakland Public Library. Scholarship administration and academic support is provided by ScholarMatch.

Community Partners: Oakland School for the Arts, Mills College, Generations Literary Journal, Youth Radio, Oakland Unified School District, Write-to-Read and Alameda County Library, California Poets in the Schools, Chapter 510 (a made-in-Oakland literacy and writing project), and BeastCrawl.

About Obasi Davis (2013 Winner)

“Mr. Davis is a master of the deep breath, ancestral, scarred, ‘staring into a fire.’ …With the humanity-voice of Gwendolyn Brooks, the long-jeweled line of Ginsberg and his own Obasi magic, here stands a giant poeta in the making – for the people of Oakland and the world.” – Juan Felipe Herrera, Poet Laureate of California

Seventeen-year-old Obasi Davis is the City of Oakland’s 2013 Youth Poet Laureate. Born and raised in Oakland, Obasi is a founding member of its heralded poetry ensemble Young, Gifted and Black. A tenacious student of prose and poetry since age 12, he has dedicated himself to his craft in workshops, at open mics and on stage at some of the nation's largest performance venues. He's shown tremendous leadership as a member of Spokes, Youth Speaks' teen advisory board and production training program. In August 2013, he will represent the Bay Area as a member of its delegation to Brave New Voices, an international Teen Poetry Slam and Festival.

At the heart of Obasi’s work is a probing and truthful lyric, brimming with the honest imagery of disenfranchised America. Obasi writes for those who aren't yet heard, chanting down corruption with nuance, maturity and charisma beyond his years. As a burgeoning wordsmith, his style conjures Etheridge Knight, Tupac Amaru, Gil Scott Heron and Kendrick Lamar. Obasi Davis is sure to join the ranks of these titans as his work promises a long, impactful career in the literary arts. Click here to follow Obasi on Facebook.

BOOKING: To book program finalists for a performance or workshop, please fill out our Booking Request Form

MEDIA INQUIRIES: contact Lana Adlawan at Oakland Public Library, 510-238-7613