Urban Word NYC Hosts Their 21st Annual Grand Slam Finals at the famous Apollo Theater

HARLEM, NY -On April 6th, 2019, Urban Word NYC hosted their 21st Annual NYC Youth Poetry Slam, one of the most rigorous and competitive teen slams in the country. This event closes out a city-wide series of preliminary & semi-final slams resulting in 18 youth competing at the Apollo Theater. The top 5 will represent Urban Word NYC as well as the city of New York in Las Vegas, NV at the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam/Festival.


The event was spectacular, competitive, and definitely a night to remember. The show started around 6 o’clock with DJ Cuddles playing music. The evening had a magnificent start with Madison McFerrin as the opening act sharing songs and her skills on the loop machine. Next, we heard a poem from the 2018 Urban NYC Poetry Slam team. Host and UW Artistic Director Mahogany L. Browne set the tone with a mini-jam session featuring BBD’s “Poison.” After getting the crowd on its feet, she introduced the “sacrificial poet”, NYC Youth Poet Laureate Camryn Bruno.


After, the 18 poets performed their first poems, Vibe Magazine Editor-in-Chief, Datwon Thomas, took the stage to announce the recipient of the annual Phife Dawg Style Award given to a young person who embodies the spirit of community at Urban Word. This year’s winner was Demetria Mack, senior and dedicated member of the UW Youth Leadership Council. Nine poets advance to the second round. For Round 2, poets had to share a poem responding to the prompt, “What am I aware of that brings joy?” Their varied perspectives on the prompt ranged from stories of family, analyzing the world, to explorations in identity.

As good as Mahogany was at hosting, she showed her skills as a performer closing out the show while judges tabulated the scores. Tension rose as the night drew closer to an end, and the top 5 finalists were revealed. From 18 poets to 5, Zubaida Bello, Minerva Macurralla, Aryanna Khan, Safiatu Diagan, and Aaliyah Daniels qualified to perform at the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam!

Congratulations to everyone who performed and keep writing!

Sofia Snow
Announcing the 2019 National Youth Poet Laureate, KARA JACKSON! (Chicago, IL)

April 4, 2019

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. 


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.

Follow Kara @FridaHalo and watch her speak about her work HERE. 

Congrats to Young Chicago Authors & All of Kara's Family and Community! 

Thanks to all of our East Coast network members for making the commencement event outstanding! 

THANK YOU! Dialect PG County; Words, Beats, Life DC, & Dew More Baltimore!!! 

Sofia Snow