Myra Estrada of Oakland High School has been selected as Oakland’s Youth Poet Laureate.
Estrada will receive a $5,000 scholarship and the opportunity to read her work in appearances throughout the year.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf made the announcement at an award ceremony last Friday.
Estrada, 16, read two of her pieces at the ceremony, expressing her frustrations both as a woman and as a person of color in the era of social media activism.
Both pieces touched on the ways she goes about life because of her identities, such as always carrying mace with her to feel safe, and pondering what it would be like to check “white” under the race question in application forms.
Estrada concluded at the end of one of her writings:
“I’ll preach my wisdom ’til the end of days. I am who I am and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Estrada was among six other finalists in the competition who all submitted three writing pieces and were scored by a panel of judges based on their performance and an interview component, in which they were to demonstrate their leadership abilities. Aside from writing poetry, Estrada is involved in the Latino Honor Roll and an assortment of academic extracurriculars.
“There is no talent, no voice, no power like Oakland youth. … That I know will always be the case.”
The Oakland Youth Poet Laureate, which has been in existence for 10 years, is a program sponsored by Oakland Public Library Teen Services in an effort to amplify youth voices ages 13-18.
Laureates and finalists in years prior went on to perform on local radio stations, festivals and other events. One even wrote a poem for a ceremony in London last year for the United Nations’ 75th anniversary of their charter.
Sharon McKellar, supervising librarian for teen services, says that the laureate program reminds the community of how important youth voices are.
“It’s just to lift youth voices and their ideas around our community, about what our community should and can look like.”
“They know a lot and they have a lot to say, and it’s pretty powerful and important stuff. This is a way of adding legitimacy and helping them be heard.”