“Tyrants fear the poet.”
—Amanda Gorman, “In This Place” (An American Lyric)
Amanda S. C. Gorman is a poet, model, activist and change maker. Gorman was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1998. It’s hard to believe that the twenty-two-year-old former National Youth Poet Laureate struggled with a speech impediment from an early age. Gorman has an auditory processing disorder, but this physical disability encouraged her to put more effort into her reading and writing.
Both Amanda and her twin sister, Gabrielle, began working to dismantle systemic oppression at a young age. Amanda became a youth delegate for the United Nations at fifteen years of age. The following year, she became the inaugural youth poet laureate of Los Angeles. The year after that, she published her first book of poetry, The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough (which is now sold out — everywhere).
Then Amanda turned eighteen, and the tyrants began to tremble.
Gorman turned to Indiegogo.com to raise funds for One Pen One Page, her non-profit youth leadership organization. Gorman’s crowdfunding campaign raised $515 with only twelve supporters. Nevertheless, she persisted, using her platform to center the voices of up-and-coming Black, disabled, queer, and writers of color. Oh, and she went to college. At Harvard.
In April of her freshman year, Amanda became the first-ever United States Youth Poet Laureate, beating out Hajjar Baban, Lagnajita Mukhopadhyay,
Nkosi Nkululeko, and Andrew White. Gorman was invited to the 2017 Global Leadership Awards where she introduced then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A few months later, she was awarded one of ten $10,000 genius grants from OZY. In September of 2017, Gorman performed her poem “In This Place: An American Lyric” at the inauguration of Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith. This Black Girl Magic moment made history and cemented Amanda’s place among literary giants.
After graduating cum laude from Harvard in 2020, Gorman continued to use her voice to facilitate change. She became a brand ambassador for School of Doodle, an online platform for teen girls. She served as a HERlead Fellow in Washington, D.C, as well as a HERlead Global Delegate at the Trust Women Conference.
Gorman’s activism earned her an Outstanding Community Service Award by the City of Los Angeles and certificates of recognition for her leadership by the California State Assembly and the mayor of Los Angeles. Gorman’s work gained the attention of many powerful and influential Black women, including Michele Obama and Oprah. In 2021, Amanda Gorman became the youngest poet to perform at a Presidential Inauguration. Her performance of “The Hill We Climb” at the Inauguration of Joe Biden, the 46th President of the United States, catapulted her to ‘overnight success’ that was six years in the making.
Days later, Gorman became the first poet to ever perform at the Superbowl. Something tells me Ms. Gorman has many more firsts to come.
Amanda Gorman stands on the shoulders of giants. Her current success would be impossible without the work of writer/activist trailblazers like Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Dorothy Barresi, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, Tracy K. Smith, and countless others.
Watch: Amanda Gorman and Sherrie Silver’s poetry and dance performance for the 2019 Women in the World Summit and “I Will Tell You the Truth About This, I Will Tell You All About It” by Tracy K. Smith