Poet Amanda Gorman is depicted in a pop-art style surrounded by words from one of her poems.
Illustration by Alex Barr

Poetry, politics merge with inaugural standout Gorman

In any social justice movement, it can be difficult for people to stay actively involved. Some see a problem one day and decide that they must act. However, by the next day, those who have the privilege to return to their regular lives often do so.

In order to stay engaged with social justice, people need reminders of what they are fighting for. Poetry, with its emotional power, can be one of those reminders. The utilization of this art form in the fight for social justice was seen at President Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, where Amanda Gorman drew the attention and respect of many.

Not only is Gorman the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, she is also a social activist, director and entrepreneur. As a woman of color, she uses her words to highlight marginalized stories, particularly of the BIPOC community. In the poem she recited at the inauguration, “The Hill We Climb,” she gave reasons for hope in a time of instability.

“So while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe? Now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?” she said.

Gorman aimed to remind the world that America is “A country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.” These words inspired the audience because they revealed how much Gorman believes in the resilience of America; an assertion so earnest that the audience could not help but believe in it as well. 

Gorman was drawn to poetry at a young age. She was named the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles when she was 16, and three years later, she became the first National Youth Poet Laureate. 

In 2016, Gorman reaffirmed her commitment to the empowerment of underserved groups when she founded a non-profit organization called “One Pen One Page,” with the goal of providing opportunities related to creative writing for marginalized youth.

A year later, Gorman began directing an ongoing virtual reality museum highlighting lesser-known female-identifying poets, activists, future doctors and filmmakers. She calls this virtual exhibit “Generation Empathy” because her goal is to help people, specifically low income students, have access to virtual experiences.

Gorman is also a published writer. In 2015, Penmanship Books published Gorman’s debut poetry book, called “The One For Whom Food Is Not Enough.” In September, she will release a new poetry collection, also called “The Hill We Climb,” published by Viking Books for Young Readers, as well as a picture book for children, titled “Change Sings.”

In the near future, Gorman will be working with IMG Models and performing at the Super Bowl LV pre-show. She will likely become a common face in the news, alongside her thought-provoking work and social activism. People should also be sure to look for her name in 2036, the year she plans to run for president. 

So for anyone taking part in the hard work of activism, have faith and believe Gorman when she said, “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.”

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