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NYC Votes Congratulates
Ramya Ramana on Her Selection as the NYC
2014 Youth Poet Laureate

October 21, 2013 — NYC Votes is pleased to announce that Ramya Ramana has been selected as New York City's Youth Poet Laureate (YPL) for 2014. Ramya, a first-year student at St. John's University, delivered the winning performance last week during YPL's voting-themed spoken word competition at Lincoln Center to claim the Youth Poet Laureate title. "It Is Not Your Problem," the voting-themed poem that Ramya composed for the competition, is included below. Videos of her winning performances are available on our YouTube channel.

Ramya, 18, is a youth activist, poet and writer. She recently won the New York Knicks Poetry Slam that awarded her with a full scholarship to St. John's University, where she is studying Philosophy and Government and Politics. Ramya gives back to her community through various service projects and plans to pursue a career as a community organizer and activist advocating for human rights and social justice.

To celebrate its fifth anniversary, the Youth Poet Laureate program launched a new partnership with Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, which hosted the competition at its David Rubinstein Atrium. Lincoln Center is joining Urban Word NYC and NYC Votes as a major contributor to the program which promotes creative self-expression and civic engagement through spoken word poetry. Council Member Gale Brewer helped NYC Votes celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Youth Poet Laureate program, presenting NYC Votes with a proclamation recognizing its successful efforts to promote youth civic engagement.

As Youth Poet Laureate, Ramya will work with the CFB's voter education campaign, NYC Votes, to reach young voters across the five boroughs, promoting voting and civic engagement at public events, programs and peer-to-peer engagement activities. Over its five-year history, the YPL program has delivered a positive voting message to tens of thousands of young New Yorkers through performances, speeches, voter registration drives, and neighborhood outreach. Publications or youth-oriented groups interested in inviting the Youth Poet Laureate to speak about voting and to perform the winning poem may contact the CFB's Voter Assistance Unit to make arrangements.

"I am thrilled that young people will have the opportunity to hear Ramya's stirring message about the importance of voting as the city's next Youth Poet Laureate," said Onida Coward Mayers, director of voter assistance at the Campaign Finance Board. "I am equally happy that we will have the prestige and reach of Lincoln Center to propel our nonpartisan voting message to younger New Yorkers as we head into the November elections."

"We are so proud to be a part of such an empowering youth program," said Hillary McAndrew Plate, Assistant Director of Educational & Community Partnerships at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. "To honor the voices of our city's creative and thoughtful youth, giving them a place on our historic campus from which to speak their truth and teach us about the world they envision and their place in it, is not only an honor but an inspiration to all of us at Lincoln Center. We look forward to a promising future with the NYC Youth Poet Laureate program!"

Michael Cirelli, executive director of Urban Word NYC, said: "The 5th anniversary of the NYC Youth Poet Laureate program was a showcase of the diversity of our incredible city, and we are ecstatic to have added the Lincoln Center as our new venue partner. Young poets representing all backgrounds and walks of life expressed the importance of voting and civic engagement, while utilizing one of their most powerful attributes: their voice. The visionaries at the Campaign Finance Board and NYC Votes have created a platform that validates the important work of our organization, while engaging service from our young leaders."

NYC Votes is the non-partisan voter engagement campaign of the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB) and its Voter Assistance Advisory Committee (VAAC). In addition to promoting voter registration, participation, and civic engagement in New York City through its many programs and partnerships, NYC Votes sponsors the city's official Debate Program and produces the citywide Voter Guide.

Urban Word NYC presents literary arts education and youth development programs in the areas of creative writing, journalism, college prep, literature, and hip-hop. It provides writing workshops to teens year-round and hosts the Annual Teen Poetry Slam.

Photo of Ramya Ramana courtesy of Kamau Ware.

It Is Not Your Problem

Gum wrapper sticking to pavement.
You only eat mints.
lt is not your problem.
Door shut.
Little boy taps knock-knock. Keep ears deaf.
It is not your problem.
Food sprawled like unwarned vomit.
You already ate.
It is not your problem.
Desert stomach.
You live in tundra.
It is not your problem.
Stomach of empty cactus.
Again, you live in tundra.
It is not your problem.
Boy crying.
Childhood taught you that males don't water from face.
It is not your problem.
Boy curled like locks on scalp.
You straighten your hair.
It is not your problem.
Cigarette silhouettes gathered as shadow at funeral.
You don't smoke.
It is not your problem.
Lungs at graveyard marry structure of prune.
You only eat dates.
It is not your problem.
Hymens crushing and falling like raindrops.
You're not really a feminist.
It is not your problem.
Porn wearing child like, "I own you."
That's gross.
It is not your problem.
Dead people.
You're alive.
It is not your problem.
Politicians baking laws like crack.
You don't do drugs.
It is not your problem.
Bullets flying like Esperanza in chest of teenage boy.
You only have sisters.
It is not your problem.
Gentrification dancing in skinhead uniform.
You live in East Village.
It is not your problem.
White supremacy uses power control as man-made alter for Satan. You're Agnostic.
It is not your problem.
Authorities taking over and New World Order happens.
Do not vote against it.
It is not your problem.