Youth Speaks is a San Francisco-based nonprofit dedicated to helping young people find their “voice” through programs led by experienced poets and writers; presentation opportunities; events and competitions; and collaborative experiences with other young people. One of the country’s premier youth programs in creative writing and spoken word, Youth Speaks has inspired young people to become poets and spoken-word artists and has provided them with valuable empowering experiences that help them hone their creative and critical thinking skills, writing skills, and presentation skills and abilities.
Founded in 1996 in San Francisco, the organization recently started sister programs in New York and Seattle. Youth Speaks offers workshops, in-school and after-school programs for young people; youth development; professional development for teachers; and performances and festivals open to the general public. The organization also publishes chapbooks (workbooks), CDs and videos. Each year, Youth Speaks records the incredibly popular Teen Slam for release on their “Bringing the Noise” CD.
Whether working with students or teachers, the goal of Youth Speaks remains the same: to encourage people to engage with spoken word; to develop their abilities to read, write, revise, edit and present their ideas; and to share themselves. In the Spark episode “The Next Generation,” we follow two young spoken-word artists, Yalie Kamara and Emiliano Bourgois-Chacon as they wrestle through the creative writing process and hone their writing and presentation talents to compete in the local poetry semifinals in hopes of winning a place on the San Francisco team that will advance to the next level.
Programs like those offered by Youth Speaks provide critical opportunities for young people to begin to consider what they think and believe about themselves and the world they live in, to organize their thoughts, to revise and edit their words, and to consider how to present themselves and their ideas. In the last 10 years, spoken word has received increased attention as the number of participants continues to grow and the important relationship between literacy and self-confidence and the spoken word is further elucidated. Every state in the country has spirited and motivated spoken-word organizations and opportunities, including poetry slams, retreats, contests, festivals and drop-in workshops for anyone interested. Many participate in local, regional and larger competitions and festivals where young people get a chance to hear the perspectives of youths they otherwise might never have heard or met.
Where: 2169 Folsom St., San Francisco
Phone: (415) 255-9035
The Next Generation
Several innovative programs give youth powerful and eloquent ways to express themselves through the arts.