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Meet this year’s Youth Literary Advisory Board Members

May 16, 2021


We’re excited to introduce the newest members of the 826 Boston team: the 2020-2021 Youth Literary Advisory Board (YLAB). All of these students receive paid stipends for writing, editing, advising, and sharing their work throughout the school year.

This year’s YLAB members are:

Blessing is a 15-year-old freshman at Brooke High School. She was born in Nigeria and raised in Boston. Her hobbies include taking walks, listening to many different genres of music, journaling, and reading. She is passionate about poetry and upliftment.

Eliza was born in Pennsylvania and raised in Dorchester, MA. They are 16 years old and a sophomore in high school. They attend the Henderson Inclusion School. They enjoy writing and reading, despite their dyslexia. While in quarantine, they have developed a love of writing letters to people and pen-pals. They also run track and do other sports. They really enjoy spending time with family and friends.

Born and raised in Dorchester, Tariq is 18 years old and a student at John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He’s an avid fan of rap music and it influences his poetry greatly. This fueled his passion for writing, in conjunction with his love for wordplay and rhyming.

Oriana is 14 years old and attends Boston Latin School. She was born and raised in Roxbury and is passionate about social justice and improving her community. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music while reading, writing, painting, or drawing. At school, Oriana loves public speaking, math, and using her strengths to be a leader. She would never miss out on an opportunity to learn, and is currently improving her acting and roller-skating skills!

Zariah is a senior in high school. She attended Burke High School for two years, but then relocated. She was introduced to 826 through Burke’s Writers’ Room. She loves reading and writing, and music is by far her favorite form of art. She loves food—especially pasta (and fried chicken). She likes making everything a joke so she can make people smile. She’s weirdly loud, but quiet.

Khaiyrah is 14 years old and is a proud homeschool student. She was born and raised in Jamaica Plain. She previously attended 826 Boston’s After-School Writing and Tutoring Program. Khaiyrah enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with extended family. Her favorite sport is gymnastics.

Yaretssy is 14 years old. She attends the Rafael Hernández School. She used to attend 826 Boston’s After-School Writing and Tutoring Program at 826 Boston. She was born and raised in the Bronx in New York, but she now lives in Roslindale, Boston.

Justis is a 15-year old freshman at Jeremiah E. Burke High School. Oftentimes, she spends her free time working on her creative endeavors and listening to music. Justis prioritizes education and focuses on making sure that she gets the most out of it.

Kaylany is a Roxbury native who enjoys cooking, dancing, and going to Chez Vous to go roller skating.

Here are some responses that YLAB members recently wrote in response to Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb:”

Watching Amanda Gorman perform “The Hill We Climb” as Joe Biden was sworn into office felt surreal. In a society that sometimes works against my community, it was uplifting to see someone that looks like me recite for the President and Vice President of this nation. After the stress and fear racial inequality invoked in communities of color, Gorman’s poem felt like a breath of fresh air. A moment of rest. It felt like a message to people who do not want to see success in communities of color. She was able to eloquently and accurately weave together the tribulations and successes that make America the country it is today. I feel grateful that little black girls in America got to experience Amanda Gorman’s poem. They, hopefully, saw themselves and their potential in her.

The first time we heard Amanda Gorman’s poem we could all hear the emotion in her voice. We loved the way she portrayed more than one emotion throughout her poem and kept her head high and her voice clear. Gorman’s poem had a feeling of empowerment behind it. She talked about the hope for our future, without disregarding our nation’s past. We felt a power of emotion, the silence of change in a sense. Amanda Gordon’s poem is what this nation needed, the calmness against or after the storm of division and chaos. We felt a step towards progress and a call to the will of the people, and a reunion to people who were once divided. She voiced the traumas endured while simultaneously restoring people’s faith. Amanda Gorman’s speech was refreshing and inspirational. Her words, one after another, connected her message in an influential manner. The emotions from her poem were clear and precise. Experiencing the current racial climate in America made her words extremely powerful.

She showed that poetry is not only about rhyming a few words, but also about the truth of whatever we have or may one day face. She portrayed the duality of a tragic, yet beautiful country to the eyes of the people. Amanda Gordon’s poem left us feeling content. Knowing that someone like us was at the frontlines of our nation, enlightening millions of people meant the world. She reminded us that in these hard times we need to uplift each other. She gave us representation, honesty, and relief.

While listening to Amanda Gormon’s voice while reciting her poem, it was impossible to not feel the power in her words and the respect she commanded. Gorman’s poem was something I didn’t know I needed to hear. People have become more comfortable speaking over youth voices, womxn voices, and black voices. It fills me with hope to know that her poem was heard. Millions watched the inauguration, millions saw Gorman, and millions listened to her speak about the faults of our nation and how we can achieve justice. In the turmoil and division of our nation, Amanda Gormon’s voice was a voice of unity and change. Unfiltered voices like hers are needed now more than ever.

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