Youth Poet Laureates and Judges

Photos of Youth Poets


Leila Mottley

Leila Mottley is 16 and a student at Oakland School for the Arts. She was Oakland’s 2017 Vice Youth Poet Laureate and is a 2018 Youth Speaks Teen Poetry Slam Winner. She is founder and president of her school’s Women of Color Club. She is a dedicated prison abolitionist and founded a youth-led program called Lift Every Voice which brings together youth from different backgrounds in art advocacy workshops around youth incarceration. Poetry is her own personal revolution. To speak, when in many ways she feels silenced, is a way she protests the world around her. She also believes poetry is a bridge for the most raw connections, provoking uncomfortable conversations and propelling understanding.

Congratulations, again, to all our 2018 Finalists:

  • Miles De Rosa, student at Oakland School for the Arts, also a 2017 Oakland Youth Poet Finalist
  • Darien Em, student at Oakland High School
  • Samuel Getachew, student at Oakland Technical High School, Oakland's 2018 Vice Youth Poet Laureate
  • Julia Hopkins, student at Oakland School of the Arts
  • Monique Jonath, student at The College Preparatory School


We are very grateful to all our past judges for their time and their dedication to Oakland youth. See our 2017 judges here.  

Oakland Youth Poet Laureate 2018 Judges 


Photo of Azariah Cole-Shephard
Azariah Cole-Shephard, the 2016 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate, is what many refer to as a poet-activist. Recently she created an outline for her organization, performed nationwide, taught at multiple institutions of higher learning including various high-schools and Stanford University, received a Resolution from the City of Oakland, and more. Azariah spends her free time mentoring youth, volunteering, photography, learning from members of the Black Panther Party and grassroots organizing. She is the founder of Melanin Elevatin Black Literacy Program and is currently working on expanding the program to meet a wider range of needs in the community.


Painting of Innosanto Nagara
Originally from Jakarta, Indonesia, Innosanto Nagara is the author and illustrator of social justice themed children’s books A is for Activist, Counting on Community, My Night in the Planetarium, and The Wedding Portrait. He is also a founding member of Design Action Collective  an Oakland-based graphic design and visual communications studio dedicated to serving the Movement for social change. In his spare time, he trains and teaches martial arts at Suigetsukan, a collectively run dojo, also in Oakland. 


Photo of Karla Brundage
Karla F. Brundage
is a poet, essayist, activist, performer, teacher and beach lover. In 2001 she received a Fulbright and spent a year in Zimbabwe.  She has one collection of poetry Swallowing Watermelons. After teaching English in Cote d’Ivoire for three years, she returned to Oakland as an MFA candidate in Poetry at Mills College where she is the Community Engagement Fellow.


Photo of Maggie Andrews
Maggie Andrews
has dedicated her career to raising resources for organizations where youth development, arts and culture, and social justice intersect. Her interests have led her to work in Baltimore, Boston, and for the past eight years, the Bay Area. She currently serves as the Director of Development for 826 National, which aims to open a new writing and tutoring center in Oakland in collaboration with Chapter 510. She is fortunate to call Oakland her home and is a proud board member of the Center for New Music in San Francisco.


Photo of Robert Paige
Robert Paige
is an Organizer at Californians for Justice (CFJ). He is a CFJ alumni born and raised in Oakland and a father of two beautiful girls. After experiencing first-hand the injustice of our education system, Robert realized how critical youth development is and aspires to empower youth of color through his experience. He is a multi-talented artist that embodies the culture of Oakland through his poetry, theatre, and music. He incorporates his artistic creativity in his organizing. He challenges himself to think outside the box and also step outside the office.