Edited by Olivia Spahn-Vieira
The recent presidential inauguration was a huge moment for women of color many ways. Kamala Harris made history as the first female vice president and first vice president of color of the United States. Powerful female artists performed, including Lady Gaga, who sang a powerful rendition of the national anthem, and Jennifer Lopez, who took a moment during her performance of “This Land is Our Land” to call for “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all” in Spanish. One newcomer, however, stood out especially; Amanda Gorman. The twenty-two-year-old inaugural poet has, in the span of a few short weeks, captured the world with her poetry.
Gorman is not new to the spotlight. In 2015, she published her first book, The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough, and became the first National Youth Poet Laureate two years later. She started her own non-profit for young writers, One Pen One Page, while still a student at Harvard University. This year, Gorman is set to publish three new books, all of which rose onto the Top 5 Amazon Bestsellers list following her inaugural performance. Gorman’s presence at the 2021 US inauguration ceremony as the youngest inaugural poet thus far marks a historical change in how young women of color are being portrayed in politics and media.
Literature and poetry have historically been overwhelmingly dominated by white, middle-aged men and have largely stayed this way amidst a world of changing demographics. As a young black woman, Gorman gives representation and hope to millions of young POC girls around the globe. Gorman is also very vocal about how her speech impediment has not hindered her but has rather allowed her to explore writing and poetry from a unique lens and has pushed her to be a better poet. She shows us how women of color are indispensable assets to the fight for social justice and for equality, demonstrates how youth is not synonymous with naivete or inferiority, and makes clear that disabilities do not determine one’s ability to be great.
As Gorman states in her inaugural poem “The Hill we Climb”, we are now living in “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.” With her work, Gorman proves that the literary world needs to expand to include and amplify more diverse voices, and readerships and listenerships will be much better off for it.