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Obasi Davis, 17, Wins Oakland’s Youth Poet Laureate Competition




The Oakland Public Library has selected 17-year-old Obasi Davis as the new Youth Poet Laureate for the City of Oakland.

Davis emerged as the best of eight talented finalists in a competition that began in April with a highly competitive process juried by accomplished authors, educators and community leaders.

Born and raised in Oakland, Davis is a founding member of the heralded poetry ensemble Young, Gifted and Black. A t student of prose and poetry since age 12, he has dedicated himself to his craft in workshops, at open mics and on stage at some of the nation’s largest performance venues.

Davis has shown leadership as a member of Spokes, Youth Speaks’ teen advisory board and production training program. Earlier this year, he represented the Bay Area as a member of its delegation to the Brave New Voices international Teen Poetry Slam and Festival.

California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, a judge in the competition, calls Davis “a rare master of the out-breath, “born into consciousness, singing. With the humanity-voice of Gwendolyn Brooks, the long-jeweled line of Ginsberg and his own Obasi magic, here stands a giant poet in the making – for the people of Oakland and the world.”

Judge Raphael Cohen, a poet and local publisher, immediately recognized Davis as a frontrunner. “He bravely engages the painful puzzles of young adulthood in an era that alternately derides or dismisses young people’s experiences, turning inward to explore his, and our, capacity for truth-telling and change-making. Expertly balancing a focused rage with an irrepressible tenderness, Davis is certain to inspire and activate a new generation of leaders through both the written and spoken word.”

Now in its second year, the Youth Poet Laureate competition was staged by Oakland Public Library’s Teen Services Department, in partnership with Youth Speaks, ProArts Gallery, Oakland School for the Arts and more than a dozen community partners.

As the winner, Davis will receive a $5,000 scholarship and the opportunity to officially represent the Oakland community through poetry, media, and public appearances.

For more information, please contact Amy Sonnie, Teen Outreach Librarian, at (510) 238-7233 or