Youth Poets Laureate and Judges

Photos of Youth Poets


Leila Mottley

Leila Mottley is 16 and a student at Oakland School for the Arts. She was Oakland’s 2017 Vice Youth Poet Laureate and is a 2018 Youth Speaks Teen Poetry Slam Winner. She is founder and president of her school’s Women of Color Club. She is a dedicated prison abolitionist and founded a youth-led program called Lift Every Voice which brings together youth from different backgrounds in art advocacy workshops around youth incarceration. Poetry is her own personal revolution. To speak, when in many ways she feels silenced, is a way she protests the world around her. She also believes poetry is a bridge for the most raw connections, provoking uncomfortable conversations and propelling understanding.

Congratulations, again, to all our 2018 Finalists:

  • Miles De Rosa, student at Oakland School for the Arts, also a 2017 Oakland Youth Poet Finalist
  • Darien Em, student at Oakland High School
  • Samuel Getachew, student at Oakland Technical High School, Oakland's 2018 Vice Youth Poet Laureate
  • Julia Hopkins, student at Oakland School of the Arts
  • Monique Jonath, student at The College Preparatory School


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

Oakland Youth Poet Laureate 2019 Judges 


Photo of Charles Curtis Blackwell

Charles Curtis Blackwell is a writer and painter originally from San Francisco. He was first published in the newspaper Sacramento Observer when he wrote an article about black students who graduated as a result of a school busing program. In 1967 he studied African American Literature at Sacramento City College where he discovered writers of the Harlem Renaissance. His work has appeared in over 180 publications including Drum Voices Review, Revolutionary Poets Brigade, Poetry USA, and African Commentary. He’s published theatre plays: Im’ma Boxer, Respectfully Yours Loud Henry and Is’ the Color of Mississippi Mud. He has conducted writers’ workshops in California state prisons and currently at Youth Spirit Artworks in Berkeley


Photo of MK Chavez

Latinx writer MK Chavez is the author of Mothermorphosis (Nomadic Press) and Dear Animal (Nomadic Press.) Chavez was a recipient of a 2017 Pen Oakland Josephine Miles Award for poetry and in the same year her poem “The New White House, Finding Myself Among the Ruins” was selected by Eileen Myles for the Cosmonauts Avenue Poetry Prize. She is a fellow with CantoMundo, co-founder and co-curator of the reading series Lyrics & Dirges, co-director of the Berkeley Poetry Festival, and is currently the guest curator of the reading series at UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA.)


Photo of Gloria Fangon-Hitz

Gloria Fangon-Hitz is the Executive Director of the Oakland Asian Cultural Center (OACC) in Oakland’s Chinatown.  OACC’s mission is to promote the history and heritage of the Asian and Pacific Islander diasporas through multi-media and multi-disciplinary arts and cultural programs.  Gloria received her B.A. from Mills College and J.D. from UC Hastings College of the Law.  She is a member of the State Bar of California and is serving her second term as a governor of the Alumnae Association of Mills College where she chairs its Lifelong Learning Committee.  In 2011, Gloria co-founded Progressive Oakland Women Empowering Reform (POWER).


Photo of Lucy Flattery-Vickness

Lucy Flattery-Vickness is currently a second-year at UCLA and the 2017 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate. She has been involved with poetry in many capacities throughout the years — her most recent endeavor is staffing UCLA’s weekly open mic. Lucy loves words for the nuance they are able to convey and admires the power they can hold. She hopes to harness this power to create change in her communities. 


Photo of Pendarvis Harshaw

Pendarvis Harshaw is a journalist from Oakland, California. He's a graduate of Howard University's School of Communications and UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. He is the director of the documentary film, TDK: The Dream Kontinues. And the author of OG Told Me, a coming of age memoir about Harshaw's upbringing in Oakland. He currently works as a freelance writer for a number of outlets, and contributes weekly columns to KQED Arts.