A clear highlight of the US Presidential inauguration event of President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris was the inspiring poetry reading by 22-year-old Amanda Gorman. But who is the young woman who captured the hearts of viewers across the world?
The 20th day in January 2021 will go down as a monumental day in history. The inauguration of President Joe Biden and his Vice-President Kamala Harris, the first Black and female Vice-President in the history of the United States. While the world celebrated these firsts, the Inauguration Day gave us another exciting highpoint, a reading by female poet Amanda Gorman, who became the youngest person to deliver the inauguration poetry reading.
Sharing her message of unity, peace and justice through her poem, “The Hill We Climb”, Gorman referenced the attack on the Capitol with, “We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.”
“And this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.”
“We are striving to forge our union with purpose. To compose a country committed to all cultures, colours, characters, and conditions of man,” she declared.
So, who is this young woman with such a powerful grip on words?
“We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one.”
Amanda Gorman is an award-winning poet, writer and activist. An honour graduate from the prestigious Harvard University, she studied Sociology and focuses on social issues such as oppression, feminism and race. She holds the honour of being the first ever National Youth Poet Laureate.
The epitome of #BlackGirlMagic, Gorman tacitly used her inauguration platform to spread the message to Black girls and women everywhere that we can achieve greatness, particularly poignant as we watched two Black women making history on the world stage.
In her words: “We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one.”
Gorman reminded the world of the spirit of unity and togetherness at a time of racial and political tension. The Black Lives Matter movement following the murder of George Floyd witnessed a divide strike through America and caused a storm of protests.
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Belying the fact that she has a speech disorder and auditory processing disorder, Gorman recited her poem with confidence, emotion and skill, offering a gratifying and motivating message to Black women that nothing can hold us back.
Beyond the inauguration, the young poet has achieved more than most in her young career. She has been published in The New York Times and has received many awards for her writing and poetry including the Glamour magazine College Women of the Year Awards and the Poets & Writers Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award.
Gorman also wrote the manifesto for Nike’s 2020 Black History Month campaign and is the youngest board member of 826 National, the largest youth writing network in the United States.
“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!”
To add to the 22-year-old’s list of achievements, Gorman’s words at the inauguration captivated people so much that it propelled her to the top as a best-selling author. Her forthcoming poetry books “The Hill We Climb: Poems,” and “Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem,” are both top on Amazon’s and Barnes & Noble’s best-selling lists and they are not even due to be released until September 21.
The young poet has also captivated a number of famous and inspiring personalities.
Former first-lady, Michelle Obama took to Twitter to express: “With her strong and poignant words, @TheAmandaGorman reminds us of the power we each hold in upholding democracy. Keep shining, Amanda! I can’t wait to see what you do next. #BlackGirlMagic”
Photo credit: Rob Carr pic.twitter.com/C2cf0U5iEj
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) January 20, 2021
During a post-inauguration interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Gorman left the news anchor speechless other than to declare: “Wow, you’re awesome”, after she told him: “Whenever I perform – and I definitely did it this time – I close my eyes and I say ‘I’m the daughter of Black writers. We’re descended from freedom fighters who broke their chains and changed the world. They call me.”
Another of our faves, Oprah Winfrey carried on a gifting tradition she started with the first Black female inauguration poet, civil rights activist Maya Angelou at President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration, gifting her gloves and a coat to wear at the event. To Gorman, Oprah gifted gold hoops and a ring that featured a caged bird to go along with her yellow Prada Coat and red Prada headband, according to CNN.
The ring was a tribute to Maya Angelou’s words, “I know why caged birds sing”, referring to her 1969 autobiography describing the early years of Angelou.
Oprah tweeted, “I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava, @TheAmandaGorman! Maya Angelou is cheering – and so am I.”
— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) January 20, 2021
Responding, Gorman said: “Thank you! I would be no where without the women whose footsteps I dance in.” “Here’s to the women who have climbed my hills before.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.