The youth is the hope of our future and Amanda Gorman has been a stellar example of that. Gorman sits at the intersection of two of the most powerful identities; she is a Black woman. On the heels of Black History Month and storming into Women’s History Month, Amanda Gorman continues to inspire individuals both younger and older than her. Gorman, originally from Los Angeles, CA, was raised by her mother Joan Woods alongside her twin sister Gabrielle Gorman and one other sibling. Amanda Gorman’s fascination with literature and spoken word began as early as second grade when she recited a monologue in the voice of Chief Osceola of Florida’s Seminole tribe, but her love for poetry began to grow when she was introduced to “Dandelion Wine” by Ray Bradbury in third grade. Growing up, Amanda had a speech impediment that made it difficult to pronounce the letter R, ultimately working in her favor to rework common phrases and truly explore the art of literature. Some of her inspirations include Maya Angelou, J.K. Rowling, Toni Morrison, and Ron Chernow, and Yusef Komunyakaa.
In 2013, after watching a speech by Malala Yousafzai (Nobel Prize recipient), Gorman decided to take on activism head-on and become a youth delegate for the United Nations. In pursuit of her activism with the United Nations (UN), she recited “The Gathering Place” at the UN’s Social Good Summit and had the honor to perform in front of Malala herself. In 2014, at the age of 16, Gorman won the title “Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles”. In the same year, she went on to found her own nonprofit organization, One Pen One Page, that encourages youth advocacy, leadership development, and poetry workshops. Just three years later she was announced as the first National Youth Poet Laureate. At this time, Gorman was an undergraduate sociology major at Harvard University. On September 13, 2017, she recited her poem “In This Place (An American Lyric)” at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., USA. That was where First Lady Jill Biden first heard her. This would later lead to her being hand-picked to recite “The Hill We Climb”, following Maya Angelou’s (her hero) footsteps. 22-year old Gorman has even written children’s books — her first book being Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem.
Amanda Gorman’s young but trailblazing career has showcased her excellence as a poet and activist, while also paving the way for young Black students to explore writing and performing. She has been an exemplary model for the Black youth and she has just begun. Check out some of Gorman’s work here and be inspired by the 52nd NAACP Image Awards Social Justice Impact Award Nominees and their work here.