Elevating Creative Youth Voices

By Quinci Mann

12/14/23 – Oakland, Calif. – In the heart of downtown Oakland Kingmakers orchestrated a vibrant spectacle, hosting their second youth-led Open Mic at the Oakstop community workspace. The venue was not just a backdrop; it became a pulsating canvas, painted with the energy of young performers, each eager to share their talents with the world. 

The Open Mic stage transformed into a melting pot of creativity, featuring poets, rappers, singers, producers, musicians, and comedians, all aged between 13 and 19. The beats were fresh, courtesy of a dynamic DJ set that stirred the atmosphere, reminiscent of the successful kick-off event in November.

At Kingmakers, the experience extends beyond the classroom. It is about nurturing a space for youth to amplify their voices, to be heard and celebrated. This ethos unfolded as a testament to the organization’s commitment to our core value of being “King Centered”.

A poignant moment emerged when a group of young men, unmistakably a musical ensemble, graced the stage. Their camaraderie was palpable, a symphony of support as each member took the spotlight. One shy performer found his voice amplified by the collective energy of his peers, illustrating the essence of the open mic – a conduit for catharsis and camaraderie.

The icing on the cake was the presence of Nairobi, the Oakland Youth Poet Laureate, adding a layer of poetic finesse to an already eclectic mix.

This edition brought forth a crescendo of upgrades – a feast for the senses. Roundtable Pizza donated food to tantalize our taste buds, the roster expanded with an array of performers, and the audience swelled, each chair occupied by a guest eager to witness the burgeoning talent. 

A new dimension unfolded as black-owned vendors lined the periphery, offering items from t-shirts to comic books.  We acknowledge,  creativity can be cultivated across many forms and genres. Economic empowerment was also the refrain, echoing Kingmakers’ belief in supporting and uplifting Black business and artistry. 

The Open Mic, as CEO Chris Chatmon underscores, is a powerful reminder to “take our crowns out our pocket, and rock it!” 

It’s more than a showcase. It’s a movement, reshaping narratives and offering a lifeline of culture and creativity to youth who might otherwise have traversed different, less constructive paths. KOO Open Mic are not just events; they are catalyst for transformation, echoing in the hearts and minds of a community on the rise.

The Open Mics will continue monthly on the 4th Friday of each month. On January 26th we will be at Oakstop (1721 Broadway) from 5:00 pm -7:00 pm. On February 23rd Open Mic will be at the Parkway Theater (474 – 24th St.) from 5:00 pm -6:30 pm, in combination with the KOO Film Festival (6:30 pm – 8:00 pm) screening to celebrate Black History Month. See you there.

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