2020 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate Announced

Release Date

Sat, 06/06/2020
Image of Oakland Public Library

Oakland, CAGreer Nakadegawa-Lee has been named the 2020 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate, winning a $5,000 college scholarship after competing with five other Finalists.  The award was announced Friday evening following live performances by the finalists on Facebook Live.

Ms. Nakadegawa-Lee, going into her junior year at Oakland Technical High School, will represent the Oakland community through poetry, media, and public appearances.  She was also a Finalist for the Oakland Youth Poet Laureate in 2019 and has already had the opportunity to speak and perform at numerous events.  Her first chapbook, "A Heart Full of Hallways,” was published in 2020 with Nomadic Press.

Ms. Nakadegawa-Lee  says, “The place of poetry in our society is amplified right now. If you’re looking for something that is beautiful and emotional and a distraction from what is going on, you can definitely find that in poetry. But also what you could find is similar levels of anger and anxiety about what is going on right now and our country’s response to it. Being the Youth Poet Laureate is like someone saying to me, ‘your poetry can change the world” and then being given the opportunity to prove that’.”

2020 OYPL Greer Nakadegawa-Lee in conversation with 2019 OYPL Samuel Getachew

Rev. Dani Gabriel, the current Poet Laureate of El Cerrito, Calif., who served as one of this year’s five Youth Poet Laureate judges, says, “Greer is a phenomenal poet and youth leader. She is clear, fierce, and eloquent. And she has big plans that she is more than capable of realizing.”

Oakland’s 2020 Vice Youth Poet Laureate is Michelle Arango.  Ms. Arango is 17 years old and going into her senior year at Oakland Military Institute. She is a dedicated activist for environmental and social justice and uses poetry and other art in her work.

Ms. Arango says, “I want to use this platform and my voice to raise awareness about a lot of issues I am passionate about.  It will not only help me in my role as an environmental and social justice activist, it will help a lot of other people because a lot of our voices are not heard. With this  attention on one person I can actually change a lot of what is going on especially here in Oakland. This is empowering, and I want to empower others.”

2020 Vice OYPL Michelle Arango in conversation with 2015 OYPL Tova Ricardo

The Oakland Youth Poet Laureate program, in its ninth year, is run by Oakland Public Library Teen Services and is an unprecedented citywide effort to celebrate literacy through poetry and connect young writers to far-reaching opportunities. Each year, OPL accepts submissions from talented Oakland writers (ages 13-18) to be considered for the honor.

The Oakland Youth Poet Laureate, the Vice Youth Poet Laureate, and all Finalists are available for performances, talks, and workshops. Submit your booking requests at oaklandlibrary.org/yplbooking. For more information please visit oaklandlibrary.org/youthpoets or contact Sharon McKellar, Supervising Librarian for Teen Services, at 510-238-7613 or smckellar@oaklandlibrary.org.

Stay up to date on events and appearances with the Oakland Youth Poet Laureate by liking facebook.com/YouthPoetLaureate or visiting oaklandlibrary.org/youthpoets. The Oakland Youth Poet Laureate program is supported by a broad coalition of partner agencies across the Bay Area: Chapter 510, Write-to-Read and the Alameda County Library

About OPL

The Oakland Public Library is a part of the City of Oakland in California and has been in existence since 1878. Locations include 16 neighborhood branches, a Main Library, a Second Start Adult Literacy Program, the Oakland Tool Lending Library, and the African American Museum and Library at Oakland (AAMLO). The Oakland Public Library empowers all people to explore, connect, and grow.