If you are 13-24 years old, we invite you to submit a poem about mental health. Over $10,000 will be given in cash prizes and awards:
asking you to join a movement to break through barriers and defy old assumptions about mental health and the many related social conditions that compound problems and hurt our communities. It is critical that young people have an opportunity to share their stories about the impact of mental health in their daily lives, and to move to the center of the conversation about access to adequate mental healthcare. We believe it is necessary to challenge the silence, stigma, and shame that so often accompanies mental health struggles.
15.08% of youth in America experienced a major depressive episode in 2022, a 1.24% increase from last year’s dataset according to studies done by Mental Health America. Suicide rates increased more than 60% between 2007 and 2008 in America, with suicide becoming the second leading cause of death among young people aged 10-24.
Through your poems, we will change the public conversation and discover new solutions. Let’s rise.
The Why I Rise project will look at the complexity of the mental health crisis from multiple youth perspectives. We invite you to share your personal struggles, outside pressures, and stories of your resilience and support.
This year’s competition will not be open to judging by peers. All poems will be kept unlisted until they are reviewed by Why I Rise judges and the 12 winners are announced. The videos of the top 12 winners and finalists will be featured on Why I Rise, Get Lit, and Vans social media platforms.
April 2 – May 10
May 11 – May 20
At Get Lit, young people respond to classic poetry with original spoken word poems. For this competition, respond with your own two to three minute poem (with a 30 second grace period) to the question:
Why I Rise …
Entires will be judged based on three criteria:
Is your poem memorized and delivered with strong conviction?
Is your poem original and exciting? Does your poem represent a unique perspective - something only you could write?
Does your poem deal with this very specific time in history? Does it offer advice, solutions, or input about how to move forward?
Winners will be selected by a group of diverse, dynamic artists whose work centers around mental health.
Judges will be selecting from a pool of the top 30 winners: 20 chosen by popular vote, and 10 Get Lit staff selects.
Six individual winners will receive a $1,000 cash award
Five from Southern California & One National/International youth poet.
Six honorable mentions will each receive $100.
Final 12 winners will be featured on the Why I Rise website and in national and international media coverage.
Yesika is a Los Angeles based Salvadoran poet who writes about her family, her culture, her city, and her fat brown body. She has shared her work in venues and campuses throughout the country. Salgado is a two time National Poetry Slam finalist and the recipient of the 2020 International Latino Book Award in Poetry. Her work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Teen Vogue, Univision, CNN, NPR, TEDx, and many digital platforms. She is an internationally recognized body-positive activist and the writer of the column Suelta for Remezcla. Yesika is the author of the best-sellers Corazón, Tesoro, and Hermosa, published with Not a Cult.
AMANDA KLOOTS is an Ohio native that brings her infectious and inspirational attitude to everything that she does. She serves as host of THE TALK, CBS’ Daytime Emmy Award-winning talk show. A former Broadway dancer and Radio City Rockette, Kloots performed on a variety of stage, film and TV productions for over 17 years. Her love of dance and fitness led her to work and lead classes at one of New York’s premiere fitness studios. Kloots developed the jump rope method after years of trying different ways to stay in great shape. In 2016, Kloots decided to focus full time on her AK! Fitness brand – her signature classes feature jump ropes and dance mixed with cross training to create a unique full body workout. Kloots’ first memoir, Live Your Life, co-written with her sister was released in June 2021 and became a New York Times bestseller. Currently, Kloots resides in Los Angeles with her son, Elvis.
SARAH GILMAN is an LA-based actress, writer, and mental health activist. She is best known for her lead roles in the Disney Channel sitcom I Didn’t Do It and the feature film Daphne & Velma, as well as her recurring role of Cammy on Last Man Standing. She is currently working on the new series, CSI: Vegas. She graduated with honors from USC with a degree in Film & Television Production from the School of Cinematic Arts. When she isn’t acting, Sarah devotes her time to suicide prevention and mental health destigmatization and equity, often partnering with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, and Self Care Is For Everyone.
CHEN CHEN/ 陳琛 is a poet and essayist interested in Asian American histories and futures, family (bio and found), queer friendship, multilingualism, hybrid texts, humor, and pop culture. Chen Chen’s second book of poetry, Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency, is forthcoming from BOA Editions in Sept. 2022. His debut, When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities (BOA Editions, 2017), was longlisted for the National Book Award and won the Thom Gunn Award, among other honors. In 2019 Bloodaxe Books published the UK edition. Chen is also the author of four chapbooks and the forthcoming book of essays, In Cahoots with the Rabbit God (Noemi Press, 2023). His work appears/is forthcoming in many publications, including Poem-a-Day and three editions of The Best American Poetry (2015, 2019, & 2021). He has received two Pushcart Prizes and fellowships from Kundiman and the National Endowment for the Arts. He teaches at Brandeis University as the Jacob Ziskind Poet-in-Residence and serves on the poetry faculty for the low-residency MFA programs at New England College and Stonecoast. With a brilliant team, he edits the journal, Underblong. With Gudetama the lazy egg, he edits the lickety~split. He lives in Waltham, MA with his partner, Jeff Gilbert and their pug, Mr. Rupert Giles.
RACHEL “RAYCH” JACKSON is a writer, educator and performer. Her poems have gained over 2 million views on YouTube. She is the 2017 NUPIC Champion and a 2017 Pink Door fellow. Jackson recently voiced 'DJ Raych' in the Jackbox game, Mad Verse City. She voices Tiffany in Battu, an upcoming animation recently picked up by Cartoon Network. Her latest play, “Emotions & Bots”, premiered at the Woerdz Festival in Lucerne, Switzerland. Jackson wrote a room dedicated to her city for 29Rooms' first installment in Chicago, through Refinery 29. She co-created and co-hosts Big Kid Slam, a monthly poetry show in Chicago. Jackson continues to instruct workshops through Poetry Foundation, InsideOut Literary Arts and more. She pushes educators to implement culturally relevant poetry within their curriculum using her five years of experience teaching elementary in Chicago Public Schools. Jackson’s work has been published by many— including Poetry Magazine, The Rumpus, The Shallow Ends, and Washington Square Review. Her debut collection EVEN THE SAINTS AUDITION was recently published through Button Poetry. Her collection won Best New Poetry Collection by a Chicagoan in the Chicago Reader fall of 2019. Jackson currently lives in Chicago.
MASON GRANGER is originally from Philadelphia by way of Willingboro, NJ, and is a poet with 15+ years of professional experience on stage & in classrooms across 49 states and six countries as ⅓ of the performance poetry trio, Mayhem Poets. In 2014, he created SlamFind, a digital platform specifically intended to connect fans of poetry videos with the poets & live poetry venues where these videos are born. Between 2016-2018, he was the official videographer for the Women of the World Poetry Slam, National Poetry Slam, and Individual World Poetry Slam, producing hundreds of poetry videos that continue to garner million views across multiple platforms. In the spirit of his mission of always keeping the ‘live’ in ‘live poetry’, Mason hosted the weekly PoetNY open mic at Bowery Poetry Club in NYC from 2017-2019 while also serving as Executive Director of Bowery Arts & Science through 2019. Mason currently serves as the Deputy Director of Get Lit.
“Why I Rise” is a collaboration between Get Lit - Words Ignite and the Los Angeles Department of Mental Health. For questions, comments, or concerns, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Why I Rise poetry contest for Los Angeles County is a partnership of WE RISE and Get Lit since 2019.VANS, a major supporter of youth spoken word programming, is helping amplify the work by expanding the contest worldwide.
Get Lit – Words Ignite fuses classic and spoken word poetry to increase teen literacy on the page and in visual media. We cultivate enthusiastic learners emboldened to inspire social consciousness in diverse communities. Get Lit’s poetry and film curriculum engages young people by providing a creative outlet, community, and real-life work experience, transforming students into artists, activists, scholars, and stars.
Download our Media Kit
Why I Rise features an online spoken word and hip hop competition.
There are no wrong answers. Be specific and as detailed as possible about your thoughts and experiences and of course, BE CREATIVE!
Choose and complete one of the following prompts found below in the form of a 2/3-minute poem or rap.
PLEASE BE SURE TO
WHAT TYPE OF STORIES ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
Check out the writing prompts! They have all of the information you need to know, as well as the types of stories we are looking for. First and foremost, we want to hear your story.
Be sure to read the Video Guidelines before submitting your entry!
1) Pick a quiet place to record.
2) Shoot the video with your phone sideways.
3) Prop it up on a stable surface – use a stack of books if you don't have a tripod.
4) Set up somewhere well lit.
5) Shine a desk lamp or other light on your face if possible.
6) Feel free to speak in your normal volume – no need to be louder or softer than you otherwise would.
7) Unless your poem has choreography or moves that involve your legs, there's no need to have your full body in the frame.
8) If the top of your head is visible in the frame and the bottom ends somewhere between your belt and your armpits, you're in good shape.
9) When performing, look at the camera lens as much as possible, not the phone screen itself.
10) Have fun!
Why I Rise was a spoken word video submission contest for poets age 13-22 years old who were invited to share: How has mental health impacted your life, your family, and your community? What ideas or solutions do you imagine to reduce stigma and increase access to mental-health resources?