Amanda Gorman Spotlight: What a Black Youth Poet Means for the Black Community
Updated: Feb 16
By Krista Orejudos
Image retrieved from ABC27
An unexpected figure who stood side by side by newly elected president Joe Biden, and vice president, Kamala Harris, had given hope to the American people again at the 46th inauguration. A young 22-year-old poet carried the torch of her predecessors and delivered a poem that symbolized what the Biden administration stood for — a poem about unity, equality, and resilience. Delivered during a time where the country is most divided, Amanda Gorman struck people’s hearts when reciting her poem, “The Hill We Climb”. The democratic and biblical poem could only be described as a holy blessing and faithful confirmation that a new era had dawned upon America.
Overnight, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. History reached stardom as she became a best-selling author with three upcoming books, and she also became the first poet to ever perform at the 55th Super Bowl this year. Although the media had previously dismissed Gorman’s membership at the Black St. Brigid Catholic Church in South Central LA, reporters began to correct their insights and legitimized Gorman as a noteworthy poet. They didn’t expect Gorman to gain this much attention despite accomplishing so much in the short amount of time she’s lived.
However, Gorman’s influence continues to capture and represent the importance of her impact on the Black community. From her first presence on stage with Joe Biden to the Super Bowl, and to now being on the cover of TIME magazine where she conversed with former first lady, Michelle Obama, Amanda isn’t done creating monumental change.
Her words alone have reflected the nation’s urgent need to address and confront the ongoing threats of white supremacy. She called for justice and national unity as she stood at the intersection of the Catholic Church and faced the first global institution that declared Black lives did not matter. Though the unsaid history of slavery is prominent in places like the Roman Catholic Church and the US Capital, Gorman brought forward a new revolutionary of a womanist tradition of Black Catholicism.
She prompts the Black community, particularly towards young Black women, by recalling their ancestral past and how they must never forget the pain they’ve suffered; but, that their past cannot be the thing that holds them back from stepping into the light.
Another important concept she mentioned is when she portrays the US as an unfinished project that can forge a perfect union with purpose — “to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters, and conditions of man,” she remarks.
Image retrieved from PBS
While politicians may argue against her enlightenment because the US, viewed from the top 1%, is known as a country that’s achieved “full democracy”, Gorman does not indulge their ignorance. Especially when she’s made statements about living in a country where democracy feels like it was achieved 55 years ago instead of 244 years ago; when Black Americans finally won the right to the very franchise we live in today.
Similar to James Baldwin's “White man, hear me!”, Gorman’s poem amplifies the same conviction: the importance of remembering history to avoid repeating it. Both writings have clearly stemmed from a Black Expression of love for this country, and the historical credit not given to Black Americans. Similar to her cry for young Black women to step into the light, she encourages everyone in America that moving forward doesn’t mean forgetting, nor does it mean that we should completely move on. The countless losses of those we’ve lost amidst this pandemic will be a fresh grievance for a while, so we must try to earn redemption in this new era.
She reminds the American people that the fight to fully embrace the promises of a truly equal and inclusive democracy is not going to be easy. The strive to finish what this unfinished country has started begins with all of us uniting together against the segregational forces that try to racially divide us. The expense of gaining social mobility and noble ambition should not come at the expense of harboring ill-will towards any race.
It’s not a surprise that Gorman is reiterating the same racial, political, cultural, and historical themes that her previous predecessors have expressed. She’s certainly wise beyond her years, and again, this is only her beginning. As unprecedented as the time we’re living in, she is thrilled to make a change and amplify other great talents from different communities. She claims how she’s living “an important moment in Black life” and how she fits into "the current renaissance in Black art".
She plans to run for president in 2036, and by then, she hopes to see this country evolve into the country that she knows it can be — fully democratic with real promises and equal opportunity for everyone.
“For there is always light,” she states, “If only we’re brave enough to see it / If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
Written by writer Krista Orejudos