Why I Rise

A collaboration between WE RISE and Get Lit.

Poetry Competition

Congratulations to all 12 winners!

Watch the winning videos

Why I Rise 2021

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? 

The Winners

Caia Lomeli


Los Angeles

Della Dragon


Los Angeles

Faith Morgan



Fatima Sani



Jonah Henry


Los Angeles

Kiranjyot Kaur



Libby Oren


Los Angeles

Paolina Acuña-Gonzalez


Los Angeles

Sal Kang


New Jersey

Star Jewell


Ontario, Canada

Tyla Smith




Azure Antionette

Azure is in high demand as a poet, corporate and leadership training consultant, speaker and workshop facilitator. She has been commissioned to write for Maria Shriver, The Gap, Johnson & Johnson, Beats By Dr. Dre, Girl Scouts of America, The Documentary Group, California Arts Council, American Cancer Society's benefit Art 4 Life and more. Azure is an official partner of TD Ameritrade seeking to bridge the worlds of finance and art, as well as an official Clean & Clear Ambassador for their “See the Real Me” campaign. Azure served as the closing speaker for the 2013 TEDWomen Conference in San Francisco and has spoken at numerous TEDx events across the country. In 2014, Azure and her work was the focus of a short film produced by The Gap Foundation for their “One Stitch Closer” campaign.

Jeremy Radin

Jeremy is a poet, actor, and teacher. He's appeared on several television shows including It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, CSI, ER, and Zoey 101, in films such as The Way Back, starring Ben Affleck and directed by Gavin O'Connor, Terrence Malick's The New World and Wrestlemaniac, and in many plays. His poems have appeared in Gulf Coast, Grist, SideKick Lit, Cosmonauts Avenue, Nailed, Sundog Lit, Union Station, Winter Tangerine, and elsewhere. He teaches acting at The Beverly Hills Playhouse. He is the author of two collections of poetry, Slow Dance with Sasquatch (Write Bloody Publishing) and Dear Sal (not a cult press). He lives in Los Angeles with his four plants and refrigerator.

Kelly Grace Thomas Vojdani

Kelly is an ocean-obsessed Aries from Jersey. She is a self-taught poet, editor, educator and author. . Kelly is the winner of the 2020 Jane Underwood Poetry Prize and 2017 Neil Postman Award for Metaphor from Rattle, 2018 finalist for the Rita Dove Poetry Award and multiple pushcart prize nominee. Her first full-length collection, Boat Burned, released with YesYes Books in January 2020. Kelly’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in: Best New Poets 2019, Los Angeles Review, Redivider, Muzzle, Sixth Finch and more. Kelly is the Director of Education for Get Lit and the co-author of Words Ignite. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband Omid.

Malik Yusef

Malik the WordSmyth, is an avant-garde spoken word poet—with timely lyrics that address and bring attention to national and global issues. Born and raised in Chicago’s south side amongst a humble and sometimes troubled beginning, Malik rose out of those surroundings to become a 24x Grammy award-nominee, 6x Grammy award-winner, and 7x ASCAP award-winner for both pop and R&B. Other credits include Emmy, Peabody, and Tony awards. Malik is signed to the world’s largest music publisher, Universal Music Publishing, and is part of Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label and affiliated with Wiz Khalifa’s Taylor Gang. It is his pure talent, unparalleled work ethic, and ability to be a trusted advisor that has allowed Malik to build and maintain incredible industry connections and relationships with the likes of JAY Z, Drake, Katy Perry, Common, Jennifer Hudson, Rihanna, The Band Perry, Wiz Khalifa, and Adam Levine.

Raych Jackson

Tiana Clark

Tiana is the author of the poetry collection, I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018), winner of the 2017 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize, and Equilibrium (Bull City Press, 2016), selected by Afaa Michael Weaver for the 2016 Frost Place Chapbook Competition. Clark is a winner for the 2020 Kate Tufts Discovery Award (Claremont Graduate University), a 2019 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow, a recipient of a 2019 Pushcart Prize, a winner of the 2017 Furious Flower’s Gwendolyn Brooks Centennial Poetry Prize, and the 2015 Rattle Poetry Prize. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt University (M.F.A) and Tennessee State University (B.A.) where she studied Africana and Women's studies. Her writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from The New Yorker, Poetry Magazine, The Washington Post, VQR, Tin House Online, Kenyon Review, BuzzFeed News, American Poetry Review, New England Review, Oxford American, Best New Poets 2015, and elsewhere. She teaches creative writing at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.

Tonya Ingram

Tonya is a poet, Cincinnati native, Bronx-bred introvert, mental health advocate, kidney transplant hopeful, Lupus legend, cat auntie, and lover of Tom Hardy and “The Office.” Tonya has graced the stages of The Getty Museum, Madison Square Garden, San Francisco Opera House, Nuyorican Poets Café, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Lexus Verses and Flow’s variety show, and “The Price is Right*,” the online and physical pages of The New York Times, Vice i-D, Bustle, and Marie Claire, and the classrooms of schools in the United States and Ghana, just to name a few. her viral collaboration with BuzzFeed, “An Open Letter to My Depression,” has reached over 4 million views and counting. A friend, creative, daydreamer, and Virgo, Tonya’s writing explores the necessity in taking care of ourselves, especially on the days we feel unworthy. She is a graduate of New York University and Otis College of Art and Design. Tonya currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.

Yesika Salgado

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.

featured Mental Health Experts

Danah Williams

Danah Williams is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice in Santa Barbara CA and President at the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT).

Dr. Lindsay Granger-Weaver

Dr. Lindsay Granger-Weaver is an equity-minded education professional with a desire to increase access to high-quality future-focused programming for underrepresented students.

Jamie Tworkowski

Jamie Tworkowski is the founder of To Write Love On Her Arms and the New York Times bestselling author of If You Feel Too Much.

Jonathan B. Singer

Jonathan B. Singer, Ph.D., LCSW is an Associate Professor of Social Work at Loyola University in Chicago. He is the 2012 and 2016 winner of the National Association of Social Workers Media Award.

Juan Gavidia

Juan Gavidia is a board licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and a doctoral candidate at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Los Angeles.

Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson is a bestselling author, political activist, and spiritual thought leader. For over three decades, Marianne has been a leader in spiritual and religiously progressive circles.

Samantha Paige

Samantha Paige is an artist, writer, and parent with a passion for life. She has earned degrees in History, International Relations, and Culinary Education, been a jewelry-maker, lived abroad and reached fluency in multiple languages.

Stay tuned for Why I Rise 2022!

“WHY WE RISE is a call to action, 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.

America has an epidemic of loneliness, most pronounced for youth – 48% of whom feel “extremely lonely” according to The Washington Post. Suicide rates have doubled for youth ages 12-18, with suicide being the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10-24.

This is a time to change the narrative. 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, stories of resilience and support, outside pressures, under-resourced schools, and varying cultural barriers that stop people from receiving treatment

About Get Lit

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.


“Why I Rise” is a collaboration between Get Lit - Words Ignite and the Los Angeles Department of Mental Health. For questions, comments, please email: