A graduate of Oakland Military Institute has been named the 2023 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate by the Oakland Public Library.
Nairobi Barnes, 18, was chosen from among seven finalists and will receive a $5,000 college scholarship, the library said in a statement. Other finalists included Aniylah Dixon, Ella Gordon, Serafina Mackintosh, Isabel Park, Maya Raveneu-Bey, and Michelle Vong.
“We hope that everyone in Oakland, and beyond, will have the chance to be moved by and learn from everything that Nairobi and all these young poets will share with us,” said Sharon McKellar, supervising librarian for teen services at the library.
Barnes, a 2022 graduate of Oakland Military Institute, will represent the Oakland community through poetry, media and public appearances, the library said.
On its web page introducing each of this year’s finalists, the library said of Barnes: “As a woman who leads with her heart, Nairobi’s words have never steered her wrong. With every new journey she embarks on, a poem follows as well. Poetry is Nairobi, and Nairobi is poetry. Poetry is incomprehensible, and she leads her life with its touch.”
The Oakland Youth Poet Laureate program, in its 12th year, accepts submissions from Oakland writers ages 13 to 18.
Videos of all seven finalists in this year’s competition can be found on the Oakland Public Library’s YouTube channel.