The final event of The Poetry Center's Spring 2018 season features an evening of reading and performance in celebration of San Francisco-based and nationally renowned organization Youth Speaks, with two of its founders — James Kass and Paul S. Flores, both SF State alumni and graduates of the MFA in Creative Writing program.
James Kass is an award-winning writer, educator, producer and media maker. He is also the Founding Executive Director of Youth Speaks, a position he held for 21 years (1996-early 2018), and is widely credited with helping to launch the global youth spoken word movement, working with tens of thousands of young people from across the country — and helping launch close to 100 programs nationwide — to help them find, develop, publicly present, and apply their voices as creators of change.
Creator and Co-Executive Producer of the 7-part HBO series Brave New Voices and the Peabody-nominated HBO’s Brave New Voices 2010, James also created the concept and served as the Artistic Director of the PBS series Poetic License and the independent documentary 2nd Verse, as well as the NPR Series, The Drop In. James created the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival, serves as Executive Editor of First Word Press, and was, among many other things, a founding member of the San Francisco Poet Laureate Selection Committee, and helped launch the National, SF and Oakland Youth Laureate Programs. He has also edited a number of books, and has had much of his own fiction and poetry published, while producing a number of nationally touring theater pieces and collaborating with choreographers Robert Moses and Sara Shelton Mann to stage his own writing through dance. He's lectured and taught at numerous colleges, including San Francisco State University, Stanford, and University of San Francisco, and presented at NCORE (National Conference on Race and Ethnicity). Kass has received several awards for his writing, his work in the nonprofit sector, and his work as an educator. Having produced the first poetry slam for youth in the country, he helped to develop a national network of nonprofits that believe the passion, intelligence, creativity and courage of young people can change the world.
Paul S. Flores is a poet, performance artist, playwright, and well known spoken word artist. He was raised in Chula Vista, CA and spent much of his youth in Tijuana, Mexico. Flores’ PEN Award-winning novel Along the Border Lies reflects this experience. Flores’ work explores the intersection of urban culture, Hip-Hop and transnational identity. His spoken word poem “Brown Dreams” from Def Poetry on HBO has been viewed on YouTube 100,000 times, and continues to inform and influence young people all over the United States.
After playing professional baseball for the Chicago Cubs, Paul received his degree from University of California, San Diego and then moved to San Francisco in 1995 to complete the MFA Creative Writing Program at San Francisco State University. In 1996, he co-founded the Latino poetry performance group Los Delicados with Norman Zelaya and Darren de Leon and recorded a CD titled Word Descarga (Calaca Press, 2000). Flores’ performance projects have taken him from HBO's Def Poetry to Cuba, Mexico, and El Salvador.
Flores was named The San Francisco Weekly's 2011 Best Politically Active Hip-Hop Performance Artist for his solo show You’re Gonna Cry, which documents the demographic shift of The Mission District after the "dot-com" boom. Flores’ play Representa! features Cuban rapper Julio Cardenas, directed by Danny Hoch, and originally produced by La Peña Cultural Center and the San Francisco International Arts Festival at the Hip-Hop Theater Festival in 2007 and later toured to 17 cities. His newest play PLACAS: The Most Dangerous Tattoo (2012) was directed by Michael John Garcés, and starred Ric Salinas of Culture Clash. PLACAS premiered at the Lorraine Hansberry Theater in Union Square, San Francisco as a co-production of SFIAF and Central American Resource Center, and later toured to The Los Angeles Theater Center, and Off Broadway at the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater in New York City.
A highly respected youth arts educator, as co-founder of Youth Speaks Inc., he introduced spoken word to hundreds of thousands of youth all over the country, and helped develop the national platform for young people to build peer relationships and strategize toward a better future through the Brave New Voices: National Teen Poetry Slam, now seen on HBO. Flores currently manages the Latino Men & Boys Program, funded by The California Endowment, at The Unity Council in East Oakland. He is also adjunct faculty of Theater at the University of San Francisco. He lives in San Francisco with his children.