where the writers are

Youth Speaks

A favorite of Red Room authors Lisa Brown, devorah major, Paul Flores, Jason Bayani, and Daniel Handler.Youth Speaks

Name of founder: Executive Director James Kass

Year founded: 1996

Mission: Youth Speakscreates safe spaces to empower the next generation of leaders, self-defined artists, and visionary activists through written and oral literacy. It challenges youth to find, develop, publicly present, and apply their voices as creators of social change.


  • Served 45,000 San Francisco Bay Area young people
  • Supported more than 250,000 young writers nationally
  • Created programs in nine cities

Profile: Youth Speaks exists to shift the perceptions of youth by combating illiteracy, alienation, and silence, by creating a global movement of brave new voices bringing the noise from the margins to the core. The organization facilitates safe spaces within and outside of public institutions where youth can critically analyze, write and voice their own experiences through this powerful artistic medium to thousands of their peers. Through its Brave New Voices network, Youth Speaks advises on and supports the development of articulate, socially conscious, and courageous youth in more than forty communities, It works through local organizations, encouraging an artistic, politically progressive youth movement that transcends ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, language, and age on a national level through the art of spoken word.

Through its partnership with the Ford Foundation, Youth Speaks can expand support of the driving forces, transferable skills, and modes of literacy that are making the word a living, breathing part of young people’s lives. Committed to a critical, youth-centered pedagogy, Youth Speaks places students in control over their intellectual and artistic development.

To volunteer, make a donation, or become more involved with Youth Speaks, please call (415) 255-9035 or email james@youthspeaks.org or chinaka@youthspeaks.org.

Huntington W. Sharp, Senior Editor, Red Room

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