We are very proud to announce the launch of We are Still Here, a project conceived of and designed by Samuel Getachew, Oakland's 2019 Youth Poet Laureate.
As Samuel describes:
We Are Still Here is a visual showcase of first-draft poems from writing workshops in Oakland public school classrooms. This project went through many iterations in its conception, its purpose, and its execution. When I began, I had one goal: I wanted to emphasize that despite stark economic disparities, a lack of educational resources, rampant gentrification, and countless other issues impacting young people in Oakland, my city was and is still a place of beauty before anything else. It is still home. And despite all of the forces trying to push us down and push us out, Oakland’s youth are still here.
Samuel, along with 2019 Oakland Vice Youth Poet Laureate Eleanor Wikstrom, led workshops at Oakland Technical High School and Skyline High School.
Again, in Samuel's words:
The workshops were designed to counteract both the problematically overwhelming narrative of Oakland as a city of danger and violence as well as the necessary but equally overwhelming narrative of gentrification. Gentrification and intercommunity violence are but a segment of what it means to experience and grow up in Oakland, and I sought to find the parts of the narrative that we weren’t talking about. From the mundane to the profound, I wanted to hear what made this city home for my peers.
The Oakland Youth Poet Laureate program is an unprecedented citywide effort to celebrate literacy through poetry and connect young writers to far-reaching opportunities. Each year we accept applications from talented Oakland writers (ages 13-18) to join a community of young poets. The Laureate earns an educational scholarship. The Laureate will, and all the Finalists are invited to, serve as ambassadors for literacy, arts and youth expression with ongoing opportunities for performances, projects, and peer support. Starting in 2020, every applicant will be invited to stay in connection with the OYPL community.