Amanda Gorman | The Voice of Change



Who is Amanda Gorman and why is she almos everywhere? After reading an original poem at President Joe Biden’s inauguration and being featured at Time's Cover, the 22-years-old Amanda Gorman became this week the first poet to perform at Super Bowl. One year ago, on our Print Issue 4, we published a huge article about this award-winning writer and cum laude graduate of Harvard University. Inspiring, mind-shaking and powerful.

Amanda Gorman’s voice has been part of the national discussion for years as an American poet and activist from Los Angeles, California. She is the emerging voice of change who has instilled thousands with a sense of solidarity during a time of great divide. Her writing on issues of social justice such as oppression, intersectional feminism, race, marginalization, and climate awareness celebrates history, community, and differences. As an artist and advocate, Her work honors the legacy of our ancestors and advocates for the health of the earth and future generations. Her poetry is a determined mix of autobiography, social commentary and historical motifs. “I want to create poems that stand the test of time and counter the fragmented news culture of today,” she says.


Amanda Gorman’s unique story of social and political influence starts at the young age of 16 when she became a youth delegate for the United Nations, and the Founder and executive director of One Pen One Page, a non-profit that promotes literacy and leadership through a free creative writing program for underserved youth. A year earlier, she had already started teaching some creative writing workshops at her mom’s school and received funding from the HERlead program to expand her NGO. Her first call to activism came after being inspired by the strength and courage of Pakistani Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai.
In 2014, she was named the inaugural Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate, publishing her first poetry collection the following year. At the age of nineteen, she expanded her responsibilities to a national stage becoming the first person ever to be named Youth Poet Laureate on the United States. In this role she has spoken at the Library of Congress, the United Nations x Mashable Social Good Summit, WE Day, and other venues across the country. Gorman sees her ongoing position as Youth Poet Laureate as an honor, which allows her to combine her passion for poetry, people, and social justice. “It’s so exciting to help give youth the platform and access they need to be rising voices in the literary world” she says.
Because of her meditations on home and country which ring true to so many people, her poignant work has been recognised almost everywhere from The New York Times to Glamour Magazine. Advocating for youth leadership, and arts education, she has performed alongside personalities from Morgan Freeman to Lin-Manuel Miranda, and spoken alongside Al Gore and Secretary Hillary Clinton for environmentalism and women's rights. She is a recipient of the Making a Difference Award from Black Girls Rock and BET, has received a Genius Grant from OZY Media, and a College Women of the Year Award from Glamour Magazine. Amanda Gorman lives up to her name as "the next great figure of poetry in the U.S.” 
In her position as Youth Poet Laureate, Gorman remains in discussion with representatives from the United Nations, MIT, and Prada’s Shaping a Future conference about corporate sustainability. In her work as a model on the side of her social work, she has been the face of two national campaigns for Eileen Fisher and Helmut Lang. She is currently a junior at Harvard University, with a major in Sociology and Spanish. Gorman says we can expect to see her run for president in 2036.


“Imagine the revelation to be found when we re-examine the poetics of a shared past." –Amanda Gorman.



Gorman’s early life in southern Los Angeles with her single mother and two sibling, cultivated her creative brain and shaped her future self as an artist, and advocate for the suppressed voices on the political stage. Her mother, Joan Wicks, a devoted English teacher at the inner-city Watts public school, was the first to support Gorman with her admiration of words. Her mother also demonstrated the critical role of literacy in the lives of students of color — a cause which she continues to address in her many different capacities. A third grade teacher Shelly Friedman, encouraged Gorman in her writing and helped her recognize her passion “could flower into something much bigger” — and so it did. Since childhood, the artist has coped with an auditory disorder and speech impediment, which in turn allowed her to develop her reading and writing skills. Like many noteworthy figures before her, Gorman understood the challenges she faced could be redirected as opportunities for growth, a trait which guided her to global recognition.

“I understood at a young age while reciting the Marianne Deborah Williamson quote to my mom: ‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond our measure.” – Amanda Gorman.

At age 5, Gorman said she realized “the voice I was reading on the page and writing on the page was the voice I really wanted for myself.” Over time, that voice has grown and garnered attention around the globe. “I did a lot of sitting back and thinking about what I wanted for myself and what I wanted for my country: more unity, more support for the arts and more opportunities for young writers from marginalized groups,” says Gorman. Her 2014 poem “Neighborhood Anthem” addresses themes of inequality and injustice. “In the Eye Of”, a poem she wrote for “Weathering Change,” an artistic response to climate change. In her 2017 poem “In This Place: An American Lyric,” a poem inspired by this political, social, economic, and even environmental climate,” says Gorman. Her work continues to reflect her commitment to pressing social concerns of her nation. A nation which, in her own words, is made of poems that dwell in every person and place.
Creative inspirations include Tracy K. Smith, the ’94 Pulitzer Prize winner and the 52nd poet laureate Maya Angelou, whom she calls her “spirit grandmother and queen”. As a poet in the digital age, she hopes to recondition the medium into an art form that is as “less dusty and archaic” and feels more accessible to her readers. She hopes to strike a conversational tone, one that “feels very personal, very intimate, and just coincidentally happens to have poetic properties”.


Although she is used to performing her poetry in a traditional arena, Gorman is now working to integrate music, dance and spoken-word into her pieces. In 2018 she opened The Women in the World Summit with a special performance alongside choreographer Sherrie Silver at Lincoln Center. The artist hopes her future work will continue to bridge the divide between these mediums showing she is not bound to a single line of expression, while at the same time, challenging the expectations put on her. “I’m always trying to remind people that I’m so much more than just a poet,” she asserts. “I haven’t even been a poet a long time in this short life that I’ve lived.” 

“Through poetry I can speak to both the world’s problems and it’s solutions, as well as the microcosms of conflict inside myself” –says Gorman.


While taking on this more interdisciplinary approach, Gorman says she’s currently trying to touch on deeper personal experiences through her work. “When I think about what I’m most afraid to write about it’s about me and my life,” she says. “For a long time I’ve put up a wall around that so I’m trying to dig into it.” Now, after a few years in the spotlight, where her focus was situated on a greater society, she is now exploring her poetry as a means to explore the so-called “imperfect” pieces of herself and navigate the intersectional of her identity. “There’s a lot of things that make up the shape of who we are and rather than trying to change those parts, I’m just trying to invite them in and write them down.” 

Between courses in sociology and her laureate obligations, she continues to lead One Pen One Page, an non-profit she founded in 2016. She is also putting the final touches on She the People, an experiential 360 virtual reality project that seeks to empower teenage girls and to teach teens how to be more empathic of each other's cultures and communities. Gorman says she “became enraptured with the idea of virtual reality as a form of empathy-building.” Using her OZY Genius Grant, she hopes to tell a national story through the powerful lens of gender, race, identity, and social change. "I saw how rarely are young women and girls the focus of such exploits…since women, and especially women of color, face impediments in the tech industry, we don’t see the representation we need in the technological realm of virtual reality storytelling” she says. With her twin sister Gabrielle she also started a YouTube channel, called The Gorman Girls. 

Amanda Gorman is not only expressive through her writing. She notes that her relationship with her clothes, and the way she styles her hair, gives her a silent mode to pay homage to her black heritage, her sociopolitical beliefs, as well as her own character. “My body is a canvas and fashion is the paint” she explains, “I think especially for women, when our outward appearances can be so heavily scrutinized, it is always rejuvenating to see women wearing clothes that speak to who they are on the inside.” Gorman implores us to stop seeing women and girls through a social projection of beauty, but by the decisions and choices she makes in how, when, and why she wants to present her inimitable self. Most recently, she has been working with Prada as a reporter on their Re-Nylon Project, which uses regenerated nylon made from recycling plastic materials gathered from oceans, fishing nets, and textile fibre waste.


“I’ve learned that art, design, and creativity are at the heart of sustainability and what it means to imagine a better, environmentally friendly future” says Gorman. 



Amanda Gorman’s story shows us how a young woman finds her voice, and uses it to empower others. She employs empathy as a weapon against injustice. She shows us that artists can be politicians, leaders start by listening, and education is at the heart of change. She sees no boundaries between the disciplines of society, and engages all of them to work towards solutions. “It’s not enough for me to write,” says Gorman. “I have to do right as well.” Her voice, her talent, her life is not for profit, but improvement. Interdisciplinary activism — use your voice for something greater than yourself.


The Article “Amanda Gorman | The voice of Change" was published in Luxiders Magazine Print Issue 4.

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