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Young Chicago Authors (YCA) creates a culture that transforms the lives of young people and their communities by bringing together participants through writing, publication, and performance education for civic discourse and community celebration.
In 2001, poet and YCA Artistic Director Kevin Coval had a vision to give Chicago youth a platform to share their stories across the city. During that time, Chicago enforced an anti-gang loitering law that gave police powers to arbitrarily select people for arrest and punishment, resulting in innocent youth across Chicagoland being denied their right to peacefully assemble. The Twin Towers had also recently fallen and people of color were being discriminated against across the globe. Louder Than A Bomb (LTAB) was co-founded with educator, PhD Fellow and former YCA Program Director Anna West as a way to celebrate the identity of all people in a new and radically diverse public cultural space. It has become the world’s largest youth poetry festival.
YCA, the non-profit home of LTAB, was born in 1991 when teacher Dr. Robert Boone realized that few resources existed in Chicago for teens serious about creative writing. Dr. Boone began holding free workshops on Saturdays for young people looking for mentorship and the company of other student writers.
From 2000-2005, then YCA Program Director Anna West in partnership with artists and educators helped invigorate and expand programs to include rigorous engagement with thousands of young people via school based workshops and in regular workshops held throughout the week at YCA’s headquarters.
Over the last two decades, YCA has grown steadily and evolved into an arts organization that engages youth in the act of telling their own stories through spoken word, verse and traditional journalism, playwriting, fiction and many other forms.
Today, at the core of YCA’s work is galvanizing youth communities as civically engaged and culturally literate citizens with essential developmental skills from the Literary Arts world. All of this annual programming is celebrated in the culmination of Louder Than A Bomb, now over a month long poetry festival led by YCA staff and active Artistic Director and LTAB Founder, Kevin Coval.
YCA directly serves more than 5,000 teens each year in Chicago through a growing ecology of programming, celebrating their stories as essential and sharing the tools and approaches for how to contribute youth narratives to the city-wide and national conversations about youth, culture, and society.