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Leila Mottley, 16

A native of Oakland, California, Leila Mottley is an author with an interest in utilizing writing as protest. As a young, queer, black woman with feelings of displacement, writing has become her voice.

A finalist in both the Youth Speaks slam and the 2018 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate competitions, she has performed at two City of Oakland Cultural Dialogue meetings, Women's March Oakland, March for Our Lives Oakland and other events. Mottley is a Scholastic Art and Writing Award winner, and her writing has been published in Canvas Literary Journal, The Telegraph, and the forthcoming QuIP anthology. She promotes change by speaking about subjects that have not been voiced and by making people uncomfortable.

She is founder of Lift Every Voice, a youth-led art advocacy workshop series about youth incarceration. She believes that mass incarceration, specifically juvenile incarceration, is rooted in racism and violence, and that solutions to this problem can be found in restorative justice and trauma-informed, community-based programs.

She hopes to intern for the ACLU in the future and plans to be a social worker and a writer.


MacArthur Boulevard When the Moon is Orange

by Leila Mottley


when the hunt

is over,

i find myself

under this canopy

of dying redwoods:

my two arms linked

so i am my own cycle

tongue to eye to fingernail


my brother is

a wolf

when i have melted

into the sidewalk,

when i am being

ripped apart

by men’s teeth


my brother is

the church

when i have lost

my mouth,

when i can only

sink into this


when this is

my only home.