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international youth poetry slam sets the ohyay stage on fire. 🔥

Written by 
Aletta Hiemstra

From the moment that guests popped into Youth Speaks’ 24th Annual Brave New Voices Poetry Slam, they were greeted by a live DJ, flashing neon lights, and dance moves — and the energy didn’t stop there. At the youth spoken word competition, over 150 guests listened to and cheered on teen poets from across the world.

The mission of Youth Speaks, an San Francisco-based nonprofit, is to create safe spaces where young people can grow, express themselves, and create lifelong friendships.

“We wanted to build an engaging, colorful world that felt as inclusive and energetic as our in-person events,” said Joan Osato, Producing Director at Youth Speaks.
Team from Dewmore Baltimore performs live on ohyay.

Throughout the event building process, the organizers never lost sight of accessibility, security, and fun. They included sign language and live captioning and streamed the event to YouTube to ensure that as many people as possible could engage. They built decompression rooms staffed with mental health specialists, where guests could easily seek support in case they felt overwhelmed by topics brought up in the poetry or workshops.

As for the fun? The event hosts, Kat McGill and Jahman Hill, jumped on screen to encourage the audience to jam on the reaction emojis, light up the chat, and even get up and dance.

“When your guests feel safe and comfortable in a live or virtual space, they’re free to completely be themselves,” said Production Manager Brittany White. 
Emcee Jahman Hill and Host Kat McGill.
Darius Parker and Cydney Edwards, Brave New Voices Festival Co-Directors.

Throughout the event, the Brave New Voices team was blown away by the affirmations in the chat and streams of reaction emojis.

"It’s not just clapping emojis rising up on the screen — it’s really connecting with people, giving them love, and planning on connecting later,” said Joan. 

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Aletta Hiemstra

Community & Communications at ohyay