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Poetry and Reflections of Young Writers

Love people for who, and what, they are/ because people grow up differently/ and have different beliefs — so don’t judge./ We are all human, and we all / bleed the same./ Sadly, the world will never be perfect, / because of displacement, of racism, of sexism, of creed, and of money.

Young people in Berkeley created this beautiful tile mural to promote public health awareness.



Not Respecting Me Is Displacing Me

by Jay Vanity

When people try and change my

sexuality — they’re displacing me.


Love people for who, and what, they are

because people grow up differently,

and have different beliefs —

so don’t judge.


We are all human, and we all

bleed the same.


Sadly, the world will never be perfect,

because of displacement,

of racism,

of sexism,

of creed,

and of money.


Sadly, this world is so messed up.




New World

by Cole Wright

As above, so below my

Mind has no notion

Of the world we know

Entering a void of a new found

Ripple into time and space it…

Self overwhelmed with cold

Relief on this journey into the

New world we breach




Just Me

by Will Vaughn

For years I’ve been around people

Who see the world as a circle.

But, they always forget

The shape ‘sphere’

Has depth, ya know?

It’s not just round.

It could roll.

And spiral.





by Nightcrawler


How do you do?

Don’t let the sun catch you

When it comes up.

Finish the errands

And find the X on the map.

You got time, just be quick.

Just another place you’ve been.




Change This Crap

by Emory Madhattin

Got us all messed up. Off in the dome. Slay the brown black people for the thrill, knockin future in the headphones. Met a man yesterday whose 14-year-old son was killed last year in Oakland. Later that year 2 of his buddies drowned in the lake. Lady dancing at the funeral, Blow! Blow! shot up. Respect for their families, standing tall and strong, working to make some change to this crap.




by Emory Madhattin

Yo where’s my money? I take PayPal, BitCoin, cash, check, Apple Pay or Square. You know this. You’re a day late on yo weekly payments. How you gonna walk down his lane without my dividends. You know I’m out here. Have my money in an hour. No make that 17 minutes or Ima bite your whole torso off. You don’t mess with the Tyranesouras Rex. You know this.





by Miyu Shindo

I learned to surrender at the age of 11.


When my mom died, I didn’t understand —

I couldn’t comprehend — what I had lost.

And I had to surrender to the idea of that loss.


It took me a month or more to realize I would never

be able to speak, see, hear, or touch my mother.


I had to surrender her to the heavens, and to God.


It was hard to surrender. I had to relinquish

my mother to a sky of the unknown.





Correspondence between Brandon Harris (YSA Artist) & Kareem Price (Incarcerated Man)


My name is Brandon Harris. I can’t write (someone is assisting me now). Learning disability. Disabled. I can’t read, do math by myself. I can’t read chapter books myself. I need help with that. Me special. Working at Youth Spirit Artworks.

I do my life…take care of my mom. Her need help. Her disability. Her got special needs too. My mom disabled too, like me. Her special in my life.



I wish I could help you read books. I’m a tutor who helps other prisoners get their education. You have some talents, I see. Never feel down because you have a learning disability. I know people who can’t read, yet are successful in life.

It’s good to know that you take care of your mom. I wish that I could take care of my mom. I miss her. Never stop doing what you’re doing, Brandon. You only get one mom in this life. Keep learning with your eyes, and they will show you the way you need to go.




My Aunt Is A Drug Addict

by Brandon Harris

My auntie, my mom’s sister, is a heroin addict. She’s in jail for it. Her boyfriend and her stole stuff. Her OK now, but she destroyed her family. Me, my mom, her kids.

My grandma found out, and she won’t get her out of jail, because she’ll do drugs.

She didn’t call nobody about it. It makes me feel so sad. My PawPaw knows, too.

This guy she’s with is NO good for her. He did something to my cousin. I heard my cousins talking about it. He hit them and my auntie. Fighting in the streets. So not cool. At Christmas, I heard him fighting.

You gotta care about your family. Why her do that?




Personal Displacement

by Akasha Canonizado

Mind is overwhelmed with

people in my way.

Body feels heavy.

Soul is not mine.

Shadows with envy

suck happiness out of people.

Migrating to different lands…

(Isolation & Seclusion)

Freedom of sadness

makes love a mental game.

Freedom of sadness

enclosed with suffocation.

Peace dragged down by depression.

Gates of skeletons, bound by chains

serve as roadblocks for my ambition.

Invisibility exists on different planes.

Reality is overwhelming,

wanting to move away.






by Maxx Bernard

Where I belong has magic, and

where I belong has freedom.

I’m now displaced from my identity,

and my decisions.

I need help; I need shelter.

It’s okay, though, I’m used to it.

All I need is a safe space

once and for all.

I wait for the day

to have that space, and

to live in it, and

to share it with my loved ones.

The young artists of YSA created this beautiful tiled mural at Malcolm X public school in Berkeley.



by Oni


Don’t worry about life

Because everything that comes in it

Has to go.


Just focus

On the opportunity you have

To care

And love

Those you hold dear

To you.




by Nightcrawler

Pitch black night

Is like a beautiful melody to me.

It gives me energy the way

It flows with the wind


I like to look at the horizon

& watch the night life

& the night sky.



You are so mysterious

Sometimes silent

Many things unseen and out of reach.

The stars glisten with you

To tell the way

To many night travelers.



Grape Drink

by Yanni Richardson

How you gonna moan and complain

when it’s 74 degrees

sun comin soon and no rain

take yo ass to the east coast

winter shades

come back and appreciate

these Cali skies

stop trippin and enjoy this good

fried catfish

cole slaw and grape drink

wake up or stay sleep…




by Akasha

How do I surrender to something

I am not ready for?

Why can’t someone surrender to me,

Because I am not surrendering for you.


Do not yell at me with petty arguments,

Then get in my space.

You’re into a painful surprise.


Slap! I slap you across the face.


Begone, Demon!!!




by Brandon Harris

People gotta work

People need jobs

If you ain’t got no money, you can’t


You can’t eat without money

Can’t get a home



Liberated Foods

by Jalisco P

Samples picked from a grocery store taste better when it’s eaten from wheels of stolen cheese. Before we meet the rest of our associates of borrowed and liberated foods. What we see is from the loosest vines, some frail and stressed vines, some frail and stressed vines, I laugh at the bounty I can pick. The apples off the highest tree yell in laughter when they fall on the laziest person’s head. What’s your reward during winter, when the vines are still strong? A bunch of green passion fruits that stare you down like Gangsters in a Balcony.



Ant-Eating Boar

by Lejuh

Chillin on the mountainside stands

the ant-eating boar.

She enjoys fresh grass, before ants

ants galore.


Little does she know that there’s

an eagle that soars,

Watching the baby ant-eating boar

Enjoying his food on the floor.


As soon as the eagle decided to dive,

A 351 rifle bullet shot

Him out of the sky.’’




by Brandon Harris

Him passed. A phonecall first. Passed away.

I hear a phonecall. San Larita in Oakland.

My auntie see the body, in prison.

I don’t know what happened to him. No details.

Those details: he got a heart attack, or beat up, I don’t know.


I told him, go home, his parents looking for him.

Him in prison, shot somebody, little kid.


I care about my cousins. Still alive. It’s four boys. Two died, and one daughter died.


My grandma not give me a call to say if she’s okay. Twice. Called her twice.

My uncle, too. Called him three times. Him not answered the phone, him at work.


I worry about my cousins.

I call my other cousin. My uncle’s daughter. And see if she’s okay.

Looked at her Facebook. I saw her son on there. I saw my mom’s Facebook.


I don’t know what time is the funeral.





— Anonymous YSA Participant

I’m mad


I can’t rely on anyone

Really, almost everyone in my life has let me down

I’m afraid…

My abandonment issues have reached an all time high

But if nobody’s around, I can’t get hurt or abandoned

They can’t hurt me, right?

One-sided expectations are a mental killer.

Emotional drain.


What is happy? I don’t know anymore.

I feel empty and dead.

How am I still alive?

Death is consuming my existence.

I want to forget everything that is bad

I want to be a famous painter,

but I don’t believe my skills are good enough

Sometimes I dream of what my life should be like,

but at some point

I have to accept my reality.

I don’t want it to end —

I want my life to begin.


Cat Fight

by Brandon Harris

I saw in Youtube. Black and white one,

fighting an orange one, in an alley.

It was intense. I watch it all the time

and start laughing, myself.

They still going. Nobody won.

I see a whole bunch.

I see another catfight, too.

Not a white cat. Another cat,

messing with two more. Three cats.

One orange, one black and white,

and one all black.

Them still bawling. And fighting.


Berkeley shelter closes

The closure of the largest homeless shelter in Berkeley leaves many with nowhere to go

Writing for the Street Spirit: My 17 Year Journey

Writing for Street Spirit has awakened in me a sense of responsibility toward others. Street Spirit is a way for people silenced by big money and big media to have a voice.

Animal Friends: A Saving Grace for Homeless People

“I wrapped her in my jacket and promised I’d never let anybody hurt her again. And that’s my promise to her for the rest of her life. In my mind she’s a little angel that saved me as much as I saved her.”

A Testament to Street Spirit’s Justice Journalism

The game was rigged against the poor, but I will always relish the fact that Street Spirit took on the Oakland mayor and city council for their perverse assault on homeless recyclers. For me, that was hallowed ground. I will never regret the fact that we did not surrender that ground.

Tragic Death of Oakland Tenant Mary Jesus

Being evicted felt like the end of her life. As a disabled woman, she saw nothing ahead but a destitute life on the streets. She told a friend, “If I’m evicted tomorrow, I have no choice but to kill myself. I have no resources, no savings, no money, and nowhere to go.”

They Left Him to Die Like a Tramp on the Street

Life is sacred. It is not just an economic statistic when someone suffers and dies on the streets of our nation. It is some mother’s son, or daughter. It is a human being made in the image of God. It is a desecration of the sacred when that life is torn down.