Youth Poet Laureate Program

                  Picture of Azariah

Applications are closed for the 2017 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate.

First round judging is underway.  Please meet our judges, below. Finalists who will move to the second round will be notified mid-March and announced publicly by April.

The  2017 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate will be announced at a performance with all the Finalists at the Oakland Book Festival, Sunday May 21, 2017. Please join us. 

For more information about this year’s program visit

We would like to thank our amazing 2017 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate Judges: 

Mg Roberts
Born in Subic Bay, Philippines, Mg Roberts teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a Kundiman Fellow, Kelsey Street Press member, VONA/Voices Alum, and sits on the Board of Small Press Traffic. She is author of Animal Uter Meck (Black Radish Books, 2017) and not so, sea (Durga Press, 2014).  Her work has appeared in the Stanford Journal of Asian American Studies, Dusie, Bombay Gin, and elsewhere. She is currently co-editing Responses, New Writing, Flesh with Ronaldo Wilson and Bhanu Kapilan anthology on the urgency of avant-garde writing written for and by writers of color. She lives in Oakland with her three daughters, two hens, one puppy, and geologist husband. 

Eugene "Ace" Johnson
Eugene "Ace" Johnson is a poetic activist working with community leaders, churches, and public schools to bring change to urban communities as a whole. Ace believes in liberating the dreamers, by developing character, providing resources and assembling the community necessary for bridging dreams into reality. As Founder of iVisionary Academy, he is dedicated to teaching individuals how to use their gifts and talents to change the world.

Gracia Mwamba
Gracia Mwamba is a first year student at UC Berkeley, pursuing a major in Art Practice and Linguistics. She's had the honor of representing the Bay Area in Washington DC last year as in the international Brave New Voices Festival. Although this year, she will also be competing and representing her UC Berkeley at the College Union Poetry Slam International  (CUPSI) in Chicago, Gracia has been working on personal projects looking at her poetry as a form of activism. She continues to write with gratitude to God, Youth Speaks, her chosen family and everyone who continues to inspire her and give her the opportunity to grow.

Kwan Booth
Kwan Booth is an award winning creative writer, journalist and strategist focused on the intersection of media, community and technology.  He’s the editor of “Black Futurists Speak: An Anthology of New Black Writing” and has had creative writing and journalism published in anthologies, journals and news sites including “CHORUS: a literary mixtape”, “Beyond the Frontier: African American Poets for the 21st Century”, the Journal for Pan African Studies, the Oakland Review, The Guardian and Fusion.  His awards include a Sigma Delta Chi Award from The Society of Professional Journalists, a Pushcart Prize nomination for fiction and art grants from the Creative Capacity Fund and the Emerging Arts Professionals Network.

Tova Ricardo
Tova Ricardo is Oakland’s 2015 Youth Poet Laureate. Tova began writing poetry in 6th grade and fell in love with the ways that words and characters tie together to spark emotion and controversy inside the reader. Tova soon realized that her first loves were literature and poetry, and knew that she had found the one place where she wouldn’t have to conform to society's expectations. The meeting of pen to paper allows Tova to claim her freedom of expression and the emotional terrain that surrounds the construction of human identity. Issues of race, gender, sexuality, family dynamics, community, and social stigma crackle like electricity throughout Tova’s work.


About the Youth Poet Laureate Program

Presented by Oakland Public Library and Youth Speaks, the Youth Poet Laureate program is supported by an alliance of community partners representing Oakland’s leading arts, education and community organizations. Scholarship funding is provided by Youth Speaks Youth Poet Laureate Fund and the Friends of the Oakland Public Library. Scholarship administration and academic support is provided by ScholarMatch.

Community Partners: Write-to-Read and Alameda County Library, Chapter 510, and Oakland Book Festival.

To book the 2016 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate, Azariah Cole-Shephard, for a performance or workshop please fill out the BOOKING REQUEST FORM.

For press inquiries, contact or (510)761-POEM (7636).