Everyone’s been talking about 22 year old poet and activist Amanda Gorman. Amanda won the hearts of many as she stunned the world with her captivating poem The Hill We Climb at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. This makes her the youngest poet to perform at a presidential inauguration.
Her powerful 5-minute performance brought together the right words at the right time in this moment of uncertainty and division we are facing in our world. Her poignant words echoed the past, while being firmly stood in the present, but focusing her gaze on the future. Amanda represents a new voice calling for a better America. A voice that is eager and ready to see real change happen. A breath of fresh air. She reminds us of the power we each hold and that anything is possible when our voices come together in unity. But she doesn’t do so without first acknowledging the negativity in our world. Acknowledging the harsh truths, she chooses not to dwell on them, but to be optimistic and look forward to the future. To a world that can heal.
When we see people who look like us do ground-breaking things, it helps us to believe that we can too.
While the poem has given hope to many people, I’m sure it has given a particularly great kind of hope to black women. In a world where, to be a black woman can hold a particular kind of weight, Amanda has opened up a platform for black women who might also want to speak up. In performing her poem as the world watched on, she has reminded us that black women deserve to be up there and that poetry is powerful. In fact, the very oration of poetry is an art form to not only be admired from afar, but to be felt.
“I’m gratified in the fact that courage isn’t the absence of fear, but acting despite that fear.”
The act of her stepping up reminds of the importance of representation. She took note of the gravity of the assignment that was handed to her and she didn’t take this assignment lightly. In an interview with Vogue, Amanda mentioned, “I’m not saying I’m better than anyone else, but I was called by the Biden’s for a reason, and this moment has called me for a reason, so all I can do is show up and do my absolute best.” She acknowledged the power of her own presence on the stage, and the wonder “that 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.” This step she has taken has ignited a flame which will hopefully continue to burn and only become bigger and greater in the midst of the winds of this life that may try to extinguish it.
This message of hope is something we can hold onto throughout this year. That despite the terrible circumstances we may face, “we will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be.” In this way, we shouldn’t focus on going ‘back to normal’, but to work towards a new normal in which the things that have kept us in chains no longer have this hold on us. Our goal should be to strive to “forge our union with purpose. To compose a country committed to all cultures, colours, characters, and conditions of man.” She envisions a future where togetherness is the norm.
“When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
Read the full transcript of Amanda Gorman’s Inauguration Day 2021 poem here.
Amanda is releasing two books later on this year. The first, The Hill We Climb and Other Poems, will feature a selection of her poems. The second, Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem, is a picture book about the power of change, and how we each possess this power. Two books you should definitely look out for this year!
1 PETER 5:10