2019 NATIONAL YOUTH POET LAUREATE

KARA JACKSON

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WASHINGTON D.C. –On April 4, at the Library of Congress, the 5 finalists for the National Youth Poet Laureate title performed in front of a full house. Kara Jackson, Chicago’s Youth Poet Laureate since the Fall of 2019, was chosen by a panel of esteemed judges, that included former U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and National Book Award winner Elizabeth Acevedo, as the Nation’s 3rd National Youth Poet Laureate. Jackson was chosen from a field of 41 other youth poet laureates from 32 different states. Also notable is that Jackson’s predecessor for the title was also a Chicagoan, which makes two years in a row that the national winner is from Chicago. The evening also included performances from Washington D.C. Youth Poet Laureate Gabriela Orozco and Prince Georges County Youth Poet Laureate Mi'jan Credle.

The National Youth Poet Laureate Program (YPL) - a program of the award-winning youth literary arts organization, Urban Word - identifies, celebrates and honors teen poets who exhibit a commitment to not just artistic excellence but also civic engagement, youth leadership and social justice. YPL collaborates with local youth literary arts organizations across the country, as well as leading national literary organizations including the President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities, the Academy of American Poets, Poetry Society of America, Cave Canem, and the Library of Congress.

“The Youth Poet Laureate program is important because it celebrates young poets who utilize their powerful voices to impact social change,” says Urban word executive Director, Michael Cirelli. “Kara was chosen not only because of her exquisite poetic skill, rarely seen in a teenager, but also because she uses her voice to engage the issues that affect her as a young woman of color, as well as her hometown of Chicago.”

Kara Jackson is a poet, prison abolitionist, and jazz vocalist that uses her voice, activism, and multidisciplinary art to document her lineage of divine womanhood in a country that demands its erasure. She is the 2018 Chicago Youth Poet Laureate, the Midwest Regional Youth Poet Laureate Ambassador, and now the third National Youth Poet Laureate. Kara is a recipient of The Louder Than a Bomb Literary Award, Frontier Poetry’s Award for New Poets, and the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award. Her writing has been featured in numerous publications including POETRY magazine, Blavity, “The End of Chiraq,” Frontier Poetry, and the Nimrod Literary Journal among many others. Her performances have been featured at The Library of Congress, WBEZ Chicago Public Radio, WGN Radio, and a Tedx Talk for Tedx Oak Park Women. Kara couples her literary skill with critical activism to create equitable communities and emancipatory arts leadership.

"Being a Youth Poet Laureate is an honor and a privilege to me. I am grateful for the opportunity to use my poems as catalysts for changes much larger than poetry," says Kara.

 

Program Director, Dr. Camea Davis notes, "Kara's art and activism offer a candid examination of injustice that she uses to advocate for her local community and re-imagining true justice for people across the nation. Kara embodies the power and criticality of an experienced civic leader, making her an excellent national youth laureate that will thrive in the role."

 Check out kara’s blog here.

 2018 National Youth Poet Laureate

Patricia Frazier

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NEW YORK CITY – On April 28, at the historic Federal Hall on Wall Street, the 5 finalists for the National Youth Poet Laureate title performed in front of a packed audience. Patricia Frazier, Chicago’s Youth Poet Laureate since Fall 2018, was been chosen by a panel of esteemed judges, that included former U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, as the Nation’s Youth Poet Laureate. Frazier was chosen from a field of 41 other youth poet laureates from 32 different states.

“The Youth Poet Laureate program is important because it celebrates young poets who utilize their powerful voices to impact social change,” says Urban word executive Director, Michael Cirelli. “Patricia was chosen not only because of her elegant, timely and necessary poetic voice – but because her work aims to elevate the intersection between artistic excellence and social justice.”

Frazier is a filmmaker, activist and student. She was born and raised in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. She studied and honed her craft in the highly-regarded Young Chicago Authors program where she was a member of its most rigorous program for young writers; Louder Than A Bomb Squad.  Frazier’s writing addresses the intersections of young, queer and colored identities living in marginalized areas. Her work has appeared in Breaking the Chains MagazineSouth Side Weekly and “Voices of the East Coast” Anthology. She was also recently profiled by Vogue Magazine. Her first poetry chapbook, Graphite, will be released by Haymarket Press this fall. Frazier has performed her work at the Library of Congress and New York’s Federal Hall. Frazier is a member of Assata’s Daughters, an inter-generational grassroots organization of women and femme-identifying people working to deepen, sustain and escalate the Black Lives Matter movement. She is a Davis-Putter scholar and currently attends Columbia College Chicago where she is studying Cinema Arts and Sciences.

“I’m really honored to represent Chicago as the nation’s Youth Poet Laureate,” says Frazier. “I’m looking forward to using this platform to amplify the noise of the causes I believe in.”

Following the incredible inaugural year of naming a National Youth Poet Laureate, Patricia will give readings across the United States, at a number of venues including the Library of Congress. 

 
 

2017 National Youth Poet Laureate

 

Amanda Gorman

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In April 2017, at New York City’s historic Gracie Mansion, with the Mayor and his family, nineteen-year-old Amanda Gorman of Los Angeles was named our country’s inaugural National Youth Poet Laureate. The ceremony brought together a diverse roster of Youth Poet Laureates from New York City, where the program was founded, as well as poetry icons that included Patricia Smith, Tina Chang, Taylor Mali, Kurtis Blow and Kimiko Hahn.

Gorman is a poet, community leader, and speaker from Los Angeles, California. In her capacity as the LA Youth Poet Laureate she worked with the LA Commission on Human Relations to develop youth programs, conduct a county-wide library tour, and she published her first collection of poetry, The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough, with Penmanship Books.

Gorman is the founder and Executive Director of the organization One Pen One Page, which promotes literacy among youth through creative writing programming, an online magazine, and advocacy initiatives. She has been a HERlead Fellow in Washington, D.C, a HERlead Global Delegate in London at the TrustWomen Conference, and a United Nations Youth Delegate. She has introduced Secretary Hillary Clinton at the 2017 Global Leadership Awards, was celebrated by First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House, and performed at The Library of Congress with U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith. She has been honored with a special resolution from the Los Angeles Board of Library Commissioners, an Outstanding Community Service Award by the City of Los Angeles, and Certificates of Recognition for her leadership by the California State Assembly and Mayor’s Office. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The NY Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Elle.com, and award-winning anthologies. Her literary awards include national recognition from Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards and YoungArts. A 2017 OZY Genius Grant Recipient, she is currently directing a virtual reality film exhibit. She is a sophomore at Harvard University, where she studies political science and creative writing and spends too much time in the Charlotte Brontë section of the library.

(Photo credit: Vital Voices)

 

Gorman in the News