Meet the Oakland Youth Poet Laureate Judges

Each year five judges work together to select the Oakland Youth Poet Laureate.

Our judges represent a diverse group of experts from literacy, arts, and educational organizations as well as local celebrity authors, artists, and activists.

Past judges have included U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, poets and playwrights Chinaka Hodge and Aimee Suzara, community organizer and Poetry for the People alum Maria Poblet, literary journal editor Kiala Givehand, NAACP image award nominee Arisa White, KQED Columnist Pendarvis Harshaw, award-winning writer MK Chavez, former Oakland City Councilmember Wilson Riles, Hip Hop for Change Founder and Executive Director Khafre Jay, author, musician, educator, and community organizer Tyson Amir, former Oakland Youth Poets Laureate and Finalists, as well as many other local authors and community leaders.

Meet the 2024 OYPL Judges

DeMareon Gipson

DeMareon Gipson is an award-winning polymathic wordsmith.

In 2015, the premiere screening for his short film, “The Plan”, was selected by East Bay Express as a Pick of The Week.  

In 2017, the Academy of American Poets awarded him with the Piri Thomas Poetry Prize for his unique, provocative compositions.  

He is the author of the recently released children’s book “Annalise’s Cough,” which is a tale about environmental racism and eco-womanism. 

He utilizes the power of words in a variety of mediums, including the composition of children’s books, poetry, teaching, and community organizing. 

Yamini Jain

Yamini Jain is a senior at Washington High School (Fremont, CA). She's been writing poetry since she was a freshman, and is an inaugural Youth Poet Laureate for Alameda County (2022-23).

She's also competed in slam poetry and was a Finalist for the Youth Speaks Bay Area Teen Poetry Slam (2022&2023).

Outside of writing, she loves playing sports and experimenting in the kitchen!

Nida Khalil

Nida Khalil moved to the Bay Area 23 years ago from Palestine to pursue higher education. She has so far obtained two undergrad degrees, one graduate degree, and four licensed certifications. She has been an activist her whole life, having gone to her first protest at 4-years-old, demanding an end to occupation with her father. She recognizes the right to exist for all native and indigenous peoples. 

She is a social worker, and works supporting, uplifting and engaging the marginalized and oppressed peoples residing in Oakland, CA. She is currently working as a Community School Manager for Oakland Unified School District, for the past decade.    

She has performed in several Golden Threads Production plays, and readings, has performed in International Women's Day Celebrations at Brava Theatre, she has been a keynote speaker, is a featured mosaic artist, dabbles in spoken word creations, and has also judged several events for Youth Speaks. 

Rachel-Anne Palacios

Rachel-Anne Palacios teaches cultural and folk arts education programming throughout the Bay Area for people of all ages. She also gives back to her Oakland community by serving as the resident Cultural Arts instructor at Cleveland and Bella Vista elementary schools.

She is driven by her interest in her cultural legacies and in expanding her students' understanding of local and global cultures.

Ron San Miguel

Ron San Miguel often asks, “Have you discovered why you were born, yet?” He was born to sing! Ron is a Performing & Recording Artist, SongCatcher (that’s Native American for songwriter), T’ai Chi Ch’uan Instructor, Reiki Master and an Author.  

Ron’s songs are intended to inspire the listener to reflect upon life. He wrote his autobiography, Modern Day Mystic -- Journey of a SongCatcher, to inspire readers to reflect upon their own lives, to develop their talents and share them with the world to make it a better place.  

At his day job with the City of Oakland, Ron enforces local labor laws (minimum wage, sick pay, etc.). Within the next few years he plans to retire and dedicate himself to writing songs and books, as he’s got at least four more books inside of him, screaming to get out! 

A Peace Warrior of Yaqui and Apache blood, Ron is a graduate of St. Joseph’s Seminary College, and has an M.A. in Culture & Spirituality from Holy Names University. 

He was born in El Paso Texas, and currently resides in Oakland, California. 

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