Alum James Kass Steps Down as Youth Speaks' Executive Director

Monday, May 08, 2017
KQED ARTS (SAN FRANCISCO) -- Kass started Youth Speaks after taking graduate-level writing classes at San Francisco State and discovering there was little diversity among his classmates. He also found few programs where children could build an appreciation for writing, so Kass started Youth Speaks. The group initially worked with teenagers at schools and community centers around the Bay Area with their writing, be it essays, fiction or slam poetry. The organization’s slogan was, “Because the next generation can speak for itself.” In 1999, the organization proved to be so successful, Kass started Youth Speaks NYC (now Urban Word NYC). Kass went on to bring the Youth Speaks model to dozens more writing programs in cities across the US and in other countries. Kass also founded Brave New Voices, which hosts annual slam poetry festivals in the Bay Area and beyond. Those events became the focus of a short-lived series on HBO, including an episode taped at the White House during the Obama Administration. By 2013, Kass had won several awards for his work and had raised $20 million for his many organizations.