Amanda Gorman interviewed by Michelle Obama for TIME cover

'We’re living in an important moment in Black art because we’re living in an important moment in Black life,' shares Gorman

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Amanda Gorman stole the show at President Joe Biden’s inauguration with her poem The Hill We Climb. During an intimate interview with the former first lady Michelle Obama, the pair discusses the Black experience in America, touches on Black Lives Matter and art in a recent TIME magazine interview.

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Obama starts off the interview by asking the 22-year old what she makes of the progression of art over the last few years and if she sees this as a renaissance period.

“We’re living in an important moment in Black art because we’re living in an important moment in Black life,” answers Gorman. “Whether that’s looking at what it means politically to have an African-American president before Trump, or looking at what it means to have the Black Lives movement become the largest social movement in the United States. What’s been exciting for me is I get to absorb and to live in that creation I see from other African-American artists that I look up to.”

The inauguration wasn’t Obama and Gorman’s first meeting; it was the third. The youngest inaugural poet in the country’s history met Mrs. Obama back in 2016 when she visited the White House for the National Student Poets program and again at a 2018 Black Girls Rock! event. 

Together Live - New York City
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 04: Amanda Gorman speaks on stage during Together Live at Town Hall on November 04, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Together Live)

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In the poem Gorman read at the inauguration, The Hill We Climb she mentions being a descendant of slaves. Mrs. Obama goes on to ask the Harvard graduate how that helps her understand history.

“I wanted to give the American people some access to myself. Whenever I’m writing, I’m looking at the history of words,” she said. “The specific history of words in the Inaugural poem was: We have seen the ways in which language has been violated and used to dehumanize. How can I reclaim English so we can see it as a source of hope, purification and consciousness?”

Finally, the pair touches on the Black Lives Matter movement and the 2020 protests, where Gorman explains that fine art plays a part in the movement.

“Poetry and language are often at the heartbeat of movements for change. If we look to the Black Lives Matter protests, you see banners that say, They buried us but they didn’t know we were seeds,” said Gorman to Obama.

“That’s poetry being marshaled to speak of racial justice. If you analyze Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, it’s a great document of rhetoric that’s also a great document of poetry, of imagery, of song. Never underestimate the power of art as the language of the people.”

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