Amanda Gorman is up next. At just 16, she became Los Angeles’ first youth Poet Laureate. Three short years later, she became the Nation’s first youth Poet Laureate. Now, four years after that, she was the first poet to perform at the Super Bowl.
Really, Gorman has had an upward trajectory. Born to a single mother, Gorman noted that she grew up with limited TV access. Still, she found joy in reading and writing, with encouragement from her mother. Eventually, this hobby turned into a craft that would land her coveted spots at the 59th Presidential Inauguration and Super Bowl 55.
These were historical moments signaling the start of a promising career for the young poet. Moreover, they symbolized progress—to a certain extent. Alas, she makes these historical moves amid a backdrop of racial injustice, which Gorman is no stranger to.
Amanda Gorman The Next Great Activist
On March 5, she shared a tweet and Instagram post highlighting an incident that had happened. According to Gorman, she was followed home by a security guard who demanded to know if she lived in her residence because she “looked suspicious.” After experiencing this racial profiling, Gorman took to social media to share her thoughts about what occurred. In a tweet, she wrote, “This is the reality of black girls: One day you’re called an icon, the next day, a threat.”
Nonetheless, Gorman remained optimistic. In another tweet, she said, “How it’s going, but not how it will end” in reference to a tweet showing two photos of Gorman’s recent experiences. In the first image, there is a New York Times article about Gorman’s inauguration performance. In the next, there is a New York Times article about the racial profiling incident. Really, this shows the duality of the Black experience in America.
On the one hand, Black culture has molded the face of the America many have come to know and love. On the other, Black people and Black women in particular, are oppressed in America. In her poetry, Gorman addresses marginalization as it affects many groups of people. Her poem, “In This Place (An American Lyric),” talks about America’s reckoning with itself. She states:
There’s a poem in Charlottesville
Where tiki torches string a ring of flame
Tight round the wrist of night
Where men so white they gleam blue—
Seem like statues
Where men heap that long wax burning
Where Heather Heyer
Blooms forever in a meadow of resistance.
“All Art is Political”
However, Gorman’s activism is not just limited to her poetry. She has taken action in other ways as well. For example, she started a non-profit organization called One Pen One Page that promotes youth literacy. Additionally, she gave a Ted Talk about how using your voice is a political choice.
During the talk, she delivered the powerful quote, “Poetry has never been the language of barriers. It’s always been the language of bridges.” To Gorman, this function of poetry makes it both powerful and political. She added that, “All art is political.”
She said that poetry’s political aspects are threefold: (1) what stories are told, how they are told, when they are told, why they are told, and if they are told; (2) who gets to have their stories told. (3) “poetry is political because it’s preoccupied with people.” Gorman then lists famous speeches and deems them poetry.
This sentiment is reminiscent of a line in the recent movie about the Chairman of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party. In the movie, the actress portraying the mother of Fred Hampton’s son tells the Chairman that he was a poet. Gorman notes, “Poetry is always at the pulse of the most dangerous and the most daring questions that a nation or a world might face.”
So, undeniably, Gorman’s poetry is political. She was inspired to make a difference after listening to a speech by Nobel Prize Laureate and activist Malala Yousafzai. Afterward, Gorman became a youth delegate for the United Nations. However, Gorman’s aspirations do not stop there. She expressed interest in running for President in 2036, which gained an endorsement from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Following her inauguration performance, Gorman earned a modeling contract and has two books published in 2021. The first book, The Hill We Climb and Other Poems, includes the poem Gorman performed at the inauguration as well as related pieces. The second novel, Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem, is a children’s book about sparking change. As her career takes off, Gorman may just become the next big poet and activist of our generation.
What do you think of Amanda Gorman’s rising voice? Let us know down in the comments.
This article originally published on GREY Journal.