A Collective Poem, Written by Oakland Residents, for National Poetry Month

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A young reader wears glasses as they hold the book Light Made the Storm Blind up to their face.
Chapter 510 invites Oakland writers of all ages to participate in a community poem.  (Robbie Sweeny)

On Sunday morning, I woke up, gathered my superpowers, and added a couple lines to what's sure to be one of the most Oakland-centric poems ever created.

But in order to achieve that status, it'll take your poetic superpowers as well.

Oakland's Chapter 510, an organization that champions literacy—especially for marginalized youth—has partnered with the Oakland Roots soccer club for the second annual "Write Your Roots" event series. It's a part of the larger National Poetry Month celebration.

Over the next four weeks, Oakland residents are invited to participate in the All-Town Poem (Spanish version here), where writers can submit an entry on the theme of power at any time. The entries will then be edited and arranged into poem form, with all submissions getting credit by name—or superhero/supershero/supertheyro name, if they so choose.

This year's entries should be a strong follow-up to last year's effort, which produced the epic poem "Because This City."


Chapter 510 Program Manager and Teaching Artist Jahan Khalighi says the overall goal is to create a community-based exercise in creativity, imagination, and power-building. For Khalighi, it's about looking at "access to inspiration as a basic human right."

San Francisco Poet Laureate Tongo Eisen-Martin stands in the middle of Elijah and Amaya at Oakland's Westlake Middle School
San Francisco Poet Laureate Tongo Eisen-Martin stands between students Elijah and Amaya at Oakland's Westlake Middle School. (Robbie Sweeny)

On top of that, each day in April Chapter 510 is posting writing prompts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. If so moved to share a poem, Chapter 510 encourages people to use the hashtag "#Peda2021" to keep track of all the submissions.

In addition, Chapter 510 offers a poetry curriculum for educators, optimized for both distanced and in-person classrooms.

Lastly, with entertainment venues and community gathering spaces around the Bay Area on the verge of reopening, Chapter 510's newest location at Swan’s Market is scheduled for a grand opening on April 30.

Chapter 510 will culminate the month's worth of writing with its first city-wide Write Your Roots Day, which Mayor Libby Schaff officially proclaimed just last week.

Chapter 510 celebrates Write Your Roots Day on Friday, April 30, at 546 9th Street (at Swan’s Market) from 12pm-6pm. Details here.