YCA: Young Chicago Authors Have the City “Rapped” Around Their Fingers


Young Chicago Authors (YCA) is a creative writing program geared toward youth between the ages of 14 and 25. There are different divisions of the program throughout the week to accommodate everyone, no matter their race, religion, sex, or sexual preference.

On Saturdays, YCA hosts two different segments of the program. The first is “Check The Method,” which runs from 1-3 p.m. In this segment, the artistic programming staff helps students reach their full writing potential by doing hands-on work with them. Alumni from Check The Method have used skills they learned from the program for a number of different things, including using them to become published poetry authors. This program is free, and a drop-in model, meaning no registration is required. All one needs is the willingness to write in order to participate.

The second segment of YCA’s Saturday program is “Emcee Wreckshop.” This session is initiated with a workshop led by two local rappers: Defcee and Add-2. Here, students will study proficient work, and write their own material with the guidance of what they read. In addition, participants of the “Wreckshop” will be offered opportunities to have their work featured at Louder Than A Bomb (LTAB) special events.

On Tuesdays, YCA hosts the longest running Open Mic in Chicago that runs from 6-8:30 p.m. This, just like all YCA programs, is free. There is however, a sign up list, which runs on a first come, first serve basis. No one is required to write their legal name, and are supported in their decision to create an artistic stage name, if they prefer. Here, YCA staff encourages artists to perform not only songs, rap, spoken word, and poetry, but also dance, video work, and anything else they wish to showcase.

Below, a young artist performed a new poem she wrote:

This was just one of the many performances of the night. At the end of each open mic, a guest is brought up to the stage to perform, or share ideas, thoughts, and feelings with the crowd.

Though people who may identify as a part of the LGBTQ community are welcome to perform on Tuesday nights, every month YCA hosts a workshop geared especially toward queer or questioning youth. This program is called “Queeriosity,” and is designed to make the queer youth feel more comfortable sharing any material they may create. YCA hosts this event on the second Thursday of the month, and it runs from 6-8 p.m.

YCA is considered a “safe space,” meaning no racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, gender bias, sexist, ageist, ableist, or otherwise derogatory language is allowed in the building. If someone has any of the aforementioned language in their piece, they will be asked to change the word. If they cannot follow this protocol, they will be asked to leave the stage. YCA is also a smoke-free, drug-free zone, and anyone who refuses to respect the protocol will be asked to leave the building. In addition, to give everyone a fair chance to perform, each artist has three minutes to showcase their talent before the YCA¬† host of the week moves on to the next person on the list.

Because YCA encourages art in many forms, they have chalk walls placed in each bathroom, and encourage the participants to write and draw on them as they please. YCA is a place that welcomes everyone to be as artistic as possible, because the staff has a strong belief that citizen’s thoughts and ideas matter and should be portrayed in any way they desire.

Written by Trinity Oglesby. Edited by Kimberley Spinney

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of laurent.breillat’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License