City of Asylum Youth Poet Laureate of Allegheny County

City of Asylum Youth Poet Laureate of Allegheny County will:

  • serve a one year term (April 2020-March 2021)
  • receive a prize of $500
  • read their poetry at the Youth Poet Laureate award ceremony on April 18
  • read during the All Pittsburghers are Poets: Poet Laureate Award Ceremony on April 29
  • participate in readings programmed by City of Asylum in diverse venues across the county throughout the term
  • be published in the 2021 Annual National Youth Poet Laureate Anthology and featured on the National Youth Poet Laureate website
  • be entered into the Northeast Regional Youth Poet Laureate Competition organized by Urban Word

Finalists for Youth Poet Laureate will be also be recognized and provide a reading during the April 18th award ceremony.


  • Applicant must be between 13-19 years of age 
  • Applicant must reside in Allegheny County during the award term (April 2020-March 2021)
  • Applicant must demonstrate artistic excellence and a commitment to social justice* and civic engagement**

*‘A commitment to social justice’ includes efforts in political activism, organizing, school participation, and volunteering.
**We define ‘civic engagement’ as formal or informal activities devoted to improving the quality of life in the applicant’s community.

Application Details

A completed application form includes:
(1) contact information
(2) complete answers to short-answer questions
(3) a writing sample of 5 poems (10 pages maximum)

You may submit links to unedited video or audio yourself reading your poetry (10 minutes maximum, self-film accepted). Only the content of your performance, not the production quality, will be judged.

You may submit one unpublished poem for early consideration for the series All Pittsburghers are Poets: Poem of the Week, published online in Sampsonia Way Magazine beginning May 2020. See application for details.

Applications are closed for the 2020-2021 term.

Meet the Selection Panel

Tj Hurt is an artist and community activist currently studying at CCAC. For the past five year, they have been creating youth orientated art alongside community programs such as Dreams of Hope, Pittsburgh’s Trans Voices, and the Transformative Art Process. A writer, performer, teaching artist, and poet, they believe that creation allows for catharsis. Tj is constantly seeking new ways for art to be a tool that can foster difficult conversations surrounding gender, sexuality, race, and mental health. 

Bekezela Mguni is a queer Trinidadian artist and educator. She believes that the collective sharing of knowledge, beauty, and information is a part of life’s purpose and brings that intentional spirit to her work. She is a co-founder of New Voices for Reproductive Justice and has over 15 years of community organizing experience. Bekezela holds a MLIS from The University of Pittsburgh and participated in the first Librarians and Archivists with Palestine delegation in June of 2013. She was a 2015-2016 member of the Penn Ave Creative Accelerator Program with the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater and launched the Black Unicorn Library and Archive Project. Bekezela is currently the Education Program Director at Dreams of Hope which affirms the voices of LGBTQ youth through the arts. 

Jess Gold is a Pittsburgh-based educator and program coordinator working at the intersection of community-engaged learning and creative media. She believes in the transformative power of youth voice and the arts, and she grounds her practice in a deep love for learning. Jess currently serves as the Program Coordinator for Carlow University’s Center for Youth Media Advocacy and Social Justice Institutes. Through her role at Carlow University, she coordinates a city-wide Youth Voice Working Group in partnership with the Remake Learning Network. Jess has nearly 10 years of experience in community-based education, and she looks forward to continuing to teach and learn with young people. 

Farooq Al-Said, professionally known as “Said” is an Artivist from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, residing in Pittsburgh, PA. He has gone from formerly incarcerated to K-8 classroom teacher and now serves as Director Of Operations for the national Arts & Activism collective, 1Hood Media. Helping create an award-winning Arts & Education platform; Hip Hop On L.O.C.K, Said merged his musical endeavours into social activism by teaching in juvenile detention centres, schools and even the University of Sydney in Australia. As the son of a Black Panther and a political asylum seeker, black liberation, education, and community are central to his core values. This in conjunction with his first-hand experience of the prison industrial complex in his youth, his unique perspective has informed his passion for social and restorative justice. During his time at 1Hood, Farooq intends to harness his life experiences to help unite our community by instilling the importance of self-education and reliance.

Your application materials are confidential. City of Asylum reserves the right to reject incomplete or ineligible submissions. 

If you have any questions about the application process, please contact

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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