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Youth Poet Laureate of Allegheny County

City of Asylum is recognizing young writers who excel in the poetic arts and have made contributions to social justice and civic engagement by naming a Youth Poet Laureate of Allegheny County and four Youth Poet Ambassadors. The Youth Poet honorees will participate in All Pittsburghers are Poets free poetry programming during their terms of service. The Youth Poet Laureate of Allegheny County receives a $500 prize, publication through the National Youth Poet Laureate Network, and entry into the Northeast Regional Youth Poet Laureate Competition organized by Urban Word.

Want to see the Youth Poet honorees perform? Appearances are listed below.

Youth Poet Laureate of Allegheny County, 2020-21
Vincent Folkes

Vincent Folkes is a 19-year-old creative, entrepreneur, and college sophomore studying Business at the Community College of Allegheny County. He began writing songs and later transitioned into writing poetry, creating beats, mixing, and mastering music. He is a member of his school’s Black Student Union. He has participated in and facilitated anti-racist trainings as well as given presentations about prejudice versus racism and oppression in the Black community.

Read Vincent’s poem “The People.”


Youth Poet Ambassador of Allegheny County, 2020-21
Abigail Gallen

Abigail Gallen is a 17 year old rising senior at Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School. She is the founder and president of the Social Justice Club at North Allegheny High School, through which she organized phone banks, protests, and political campaigning. She is also a former staff writer for Affinity Magazine and has won awards for her articles focused on social justice. Through her passions in writing, performance, and fashion, Abigail aspires to bring together art and political justice. She hopes to further her studies in fashion internationally and plans to incorporate advocacy in everything she does for the rest of her life.

Read Abigail’s poem “Here, Where They Sing the Blues.”


Youth Poet Ambassador of Allegheny County, 2020-21
Oladunni Bejide

Oladunni Bejide was born in Rhode Island and is 14 years old. She moved to Nigeria when she was nine, and later moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she now attends Pittsburgh CAPA in the literary program. She is an honor student who participates in several sports and a writer that dabbles in many genres of literature. Those genres include: playwriting, fiction, journalism, and poetry. She volunteers at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Oladunni believes in all kinds of equality for all kinds of people and openly discusses and shares her beliefs and ideas with any given opportunity. 

Read Oladunni’s poem “My Mother’s Liberia.”


Youth Poet Ambassador of Allegheny County, 2020-21
Jayla Andrews

Jayla Andrews is a 17 year old graduating senior from Westinghouse Arts Academy. She plans to attend Temple University in fall of 2020, majoring in International Business with a Spanish concentration. She is a published writer and has won a variety of contests, including The American Library of Poetry’s youth poet anthology Illustrious and Crossing Limit’s I, Too, Am Pittsburgh bus poetry showcase. Jayla is a proud activist for women’s equality, LGBTQ+ rights, racial equality, and environmental awareness.

Read Jayla’s poem “burns of the third degree.”


Youth Poet Ambassador of Allegheny County, 2020-21
Lily Weatherford-Brown

Lily Weatherford-Brown is a 17-year old Youth Ambassador of Allegheny County. During her 7 years attending Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts CAPA as a literary art major she has actively participated in student led walk-outs, sit-ins, and protests; including the walk-out following the pardoning of the officer who fatally shot Antwon Rose Jr, and several climate strikes at the City County Building. Her poetry explores definitions of self through a blend of memory, history, nature, and political commentary. She seeks to define truth as not a permanent set of rules but an evolving force for good.

Read Lily’s poem “Us, Destructively.”


The four judges of the selection panel for Youth Poet Laureate of Allegheny County are Tj Hurt, Bekezela Mguni, Jess Gold, and Farooq Al-Said, outstanding individuals engaged in the fields of art, social justice activism, and education in Pittsburgh.


City of Asylum is grateful for support from the following partners:

This project received a RADical ImPAct Grant from the Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD).
Urban Word is the primary partner for the Youth Poet Laureate of Allegheny County, an official member of National Youth Poet Laureate Program, led by Urban Word.

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