• Tiana Poirier

Amanda Gorman's Uprising

Updated: Apr 22

Everyone in America stopped and moved their attention to Amanda Gorman when she recited her poem, “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s Inauguration on January 20. There, Gorman showcased a poem she wrote specifically for America to show her optimism to grow and reach equality. At just 22 years old, the Harvard graduate managed to capture every yearning and hurting heart listening. This proved not to be the only time America listened to her, though, as she recited another one of her poems, “Chorus of the Captains” at Super Bowl LV a month later.

Gorman’s love for poetry started when she was in the 3rd grade, where she realized she wanted to use her voice to stand up for herself. That became a concern, though, when she was diagnosed with a speech impediment. For years she was afraid of public speaking but would write poems anyway. In 2018, she told NBC’s “TODAY” that at one point she took a step back and realized her inner voice was more powerful than that of which everyone else is hearing and started performing her poems again. Gorman also expressed that her speech impediment pushed her to become a poet because it challenged her voice, and she was determined to spread her messages despite any challenges. She expressed in multiple interviews that she has a mantra she repeats before each performance: “I am the daughter of black writers who were descended from freedom fighters who broke their chains and changed the world. They call me.” Gorman’s poems center around history and change in the black community and she says making a poem non-political is like making a car not a vehicle. Her popularity began to grow and she became the first African-American Youth Poet Laureate in 2018, for being active in social justice and her skills in the arts, when she was just a sophomore at Harvard.

Somewhere along the way of performing for Al Gore, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Malala Yousafzai and more, Hillary Clinton became interested in her performing at the Inauguration. After some time deliberating, Gorman was chosen and she started writing her poem. With the weight of Covid-19, social justice protests, and deaths of hundreds of thousands of deaths in the U.S., Gorman had a lot to write about. Not long after she got the news that she was chosen, the insurrection at the Capitol took place, an event that didn’t surprise Gorman. “The chapel has been violated and my words need to work to repurify the Capitol,” she expressed. She worked on her poem up until the morning she performed it, making sure it touched on everything Americans were feeling in that moment, and to be a beacon of hope and realism.

In “The Hill We Climb,” every line has meaning and depth. Gorman points to equality in saying, “We are striving to forge a union with purpose, to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.” She also suggests the insurrection, stating, “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.” And she hopes for a better tomorrow by expressing, “And every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful will emerge, battered and beautiful”

Less than a month later, she performed “Chorus of the Captains”, a 1 minute and 33 second poem at Super Bowl LV. This poem was centered around three groups of people, but more specifically about their captains. She spoke about educators, healers, and leaders, and what they have done for America in this time of uncertainty. With each person she spotlights, she expresses her gratitude for their line of work. She mentions James, a leader who opens his home to at-risk youth and live streams football for families. She then shares Trimaine’s story as an educator and his efforts, like equipping students with the things they need such as tech support and laptops, working endlessly. Lastly, she mentions Suzie, an ICU nurse manager who has helped patients through Covid and has suffered her own losses to the disease but continues to save lives. Gorman closes the poem by saying, “We celebrate them by acting with courage and compassion, by doing what is right and just. For while we honor them today, it is them who every day honor us.” This short yet expressive poem took a real look into the captains who navigate the world through a time where nothing is stable - except their hard work.

After performing at some of the biggest events in history, Amanda Gorman started gaining popularity instantly. She gained millions of followers on all social media platforms within a week and was interviewed by nearly every news channel, newspaper, and talk show and even did a TED Talk. She also released her first children’s literature book titled “Change Sings” with #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator Loren Long. She said in an interview with James Corden that she “wants children to see themselves as change makers and the voices of tomorrow’s forefront.” Gorman continues to grow through poetry and her online presence, and has become a household name as the young, strong black woman who showed the world hope.

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