Louder Than a Bomb, a youth poetry festival that Young Chicago Authors has held for more than 20 years, has been postponed as the embattled youth art organization works to re-establish the trust of its community members in the wake of accusations that the group’s leadership has for years failed to do enough about complaints of sexual assault.
The festival, founded by the recently ousted Young Chicago Authors executive director Kevin Coval, is the organization’s largest event of the year and boasts an alumni base that includes Chance the Rapper, Jamila Woods and Noname. The famed annual event was set to feature more than 500 young poets from schools and community groups across the Chicago area and was scheduled to take place virtually, starting March 13.
But interim executive director Demetrius Amparan announced Monday that the event will be pushed back until “late spring.”
The postponement comes just days after Chicago Public Schools suspended its partnership with the group and launched an investigation into whether any students in the program had been harmed amid a leadership shake-up that included the ouster of longtime artistic director Coval and the abrupt resignation of executive director Rebecca Hunter.
In his open letter, Amparan said Young Chicago Authors will “fully cooperate” with Chicago Public Schools’ investigation into their partnership. He also said that he has “no knowledge of any minors being involved in sexual harm at YCA spaces or at YCA activities at CPS locations.”
Amparan said the organization is committed to creating a safe space for its participants, temporarily pausing its programming as the staff turns its focus on implementing a 90-day “Safe Space” plan. Amparan said the plan is a “collaborative, transparent effort” that will include a comprehensive review of each staff member’s history with the organization, safe space protocols and mandatory training on the topics of consent and mentorship among other things.
Young Chicago Authors will also be hosting town halls and public workshops starting March 16.
“I am committed to ensuring we bring in the proper resources and external partners to ensure our young people and their adult coaches have what they need to feel cared for,” Amparan said in his open letter. “Too often the burden of restoring communities that were disregarded falls upon the shoulders of Black and Brown people who experience the effects of that harm. From this point onward, my promise to our community is that we will listen, respond and act in full transparency for the betterment of our young people’s lives.”
Last week, Hunter acknowledged that the group’s leadership “fell short” in handling allegations of sexual assault.
The group “didn’t do enough community convening and town halls and listening sessions with people to just kind of process this [person’s] harm and and come together to heal together,” Hunter said. “Those things didn’t happen, and the community needed that and wanted that.”