Youth Poets Laureate and Judges

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Announcement of Oakland's 10th Youth Poet Laureate June 4th, 7pm!

All seven 2021 OYPL Finalists will perform.


CONGRATULATIONS to the 2021 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate Finalists:

  • Anna Chard, 16
  • Dara Kashayar, 15
  • Kaylan Black, 15
  • Maya Looney, 17
  • Myra Estrada, 15
  • Nadia Elbgal, 17 
  • Siara Edmond, 16

  Learn about them here.  


Greer Nakadegawa-Lee

Greer Nakadegawa-Lee is 16 years old and going into her junior year at Oakland Technical High School. She was a Finalist for the Oakland Youth Poet Laureate in 2019, and her first chapbook, "A Heart Full of Hallways," was published in 2020 with Nomadic Press. She has written a poem everyday for over two years. Through her writing she hopes to express the feelings and stories people often feel obligated to carry on their own. To her, poetry is a way of communicating the concepts regular speech fails to articulate, and therefore has a unique power to bring people together. 

Listen to Greer Nakadegawa-Lee perform her poem, "2020", and find a printable version of her inspiring words.

Greer performed a poem at the Oakland Symphony's Inaugural Gala for Kamala Harris.  See the performance and find a printable version of the poem.


Michelle Arango

2020 Vice OYPL Michelle Arango

Michelle Arango is 17 and going into her senior year at Oakland Military Institute. She is a proud poet/artist activist, fighting for climate and social justice. She has been writing poetry since she first picked up a pencil. She is very passionate about her activism and inspired by what she sees in her community. 

Announcing Oakland's 2020 Youth Poet Laureate Finalists:

2020 OYPL Finalists

  • Chiana Griswa, age 16
  • Hunter Jackson, age 14
  • Jordan Tisnado, age 18
  • Siara Edmond, age 15  

Watch performances and interviews of all our 2020 Finalists here!


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

Oakland Youth Poet Laureate 2021 Judges 


Kev Choice is a pianist, M.C., producer, composer, educator, and activist from Oakland, CA. 

He has worked and toured the world with a variety of accomplished artists and in 2010 began to focus more on his own band, Kev Choice Ensemble. He has produced 5 solo albums, including his most recent work Social Distancing, an album created in the first month of shelter-in place. He has collaborated on projects with both the Oakland and San Francisco Symphonies. Kev is on faculty at Oakland School For The Arts as well as teacher in residency at other schools in Oakland. He serves on Oakland's Cultural Affairs Commission as Vice-Chair.


J. K. Fowler is the founder and executive director of Nomadic Press, interim executive director of Seeds of Awareness, sits on the City of Oakland's Cultural Affairs Commission, and the boards of the Oakland Peace Center and North Atlantic Books. He has taught anthropology and sociology at Rutgers University and has guest lectured at Mills College. He has been published in a wide range of publications, has performed across the Bay Area and Brooklyn, and has been featured in a number of radio shows and podcasts. He is the recipient of the 2016 Alameda County Arts Leadership Award and travels with a Kelpie named Stella. He is working on a book tentatively titled Making Space.  

Photo credit: Joe Carrow 


Leila Mottley is an author born and raised in Oakland. Leila was the 2018 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate and has been published in various journals and anthologies, including the New York Times. Her debut novel, NIGHTCRAWLING, will be published in early 2022 with Knopf.


Tash H. Nguyen is the Program Manager at Restore Oakland. They were born and raised in San Jose and bring their lived experience to community organizing as a young person funneled through the school to prison pipeline. They lead Restore Oakland’s political campaigns and oversee restorative economics and restorative justice programs. Tash brings over a decade of experience organizing in movements against policing and imprisonment. They proudly serve on the board of The REAL People's Fund. When they’re not organizing, you can find Tash hiking in the Oakland hills, chowing down on noodles, and nerding out over music and poetry.


Maw Shein Win is a poet, editor, and educator who lives and teaches in the Bay Area. Her poetry chapbooks are Ruins of a glittering palace (SPA/Commonwealth Projects) and Score and Bone (Nomadic Press). Invisible Gifts: Poems was published by Manic D Press in 2018. She was a 2019 Visiting Scholar in the Department of English at UC Berkeley. Win is the first poet laureate of El Cerrito, California (2016 - 2018), and her new full-length poetry collection is Storage Unit for the Spirit House on Omnidawn. She often collaborates with visual artists, musicians, and other writers.


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 Kahfre 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.