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Est. April 5, 2002

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Amanda Gorman mesmerized a nation with her inauguration poem “The Hill We Climb.” The beauty of her presence and the power of her words captured a country battle-scarred and looking for a lifeline. “After four years in a dark wilderness, she was like a ray of sunshine and a burst of hope which had been in too short a supply for far too long,” Cambridge Councilwoman E. Denise Simmons said.

The 22-year-old recent Harvard grad and spoken-word poet honed her skills around the Boston poetry scene. Gorman follows the august footsteps of presidential poets Robert Frost and Maya Angelou. She is one of the new voices continuing the African American women’s literary tradition – blending writing with activism. She adds to a long and storied tradition of poets Angelo, Audre Lorde, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Ntozake Shange, and Gwendolyn Brooks, to name a few.

The words and wisdom of these sister-poets continue to anchor so many black women through hardship, uncertainty, and loss. Their stories empower and affirm us and are guides for self-care and survival. These women have informed Gorman’s poems and are the shoulders on which she stands. And, Gorman knows this. “I repeat a mantra to myself: ‘I am the daughter of Black writers, we are descended from freedom fighters who broke their chains and changed the world. They call me,’” Gorman proudly shared in an interview with

Gorman was tasked to write on the inauguration’s theme, “America United.” It was a tall request to fulfill given the civil unrest of last summer and the recent Capitol siege. However, Gorman, being an extraordinarily confident and gifted writer, delivered, crafting a poem - part personal, political, and prophetic. The poem spoke honestly in the moment while suggesting a future America can become.

Now more than ever, the United States needs an inaugural poem,” Gorman told the New York Times. “Poetry is typically the touchstone that we go back to when we have to remind ourselves of the history that we stand on, and the future that we stand for.”

As the nation’s first youth poet laureate and the nation’s youngest inaugural poet, Gorman has got America talking about herself, especially among Black women.

This young woman framed the concept of a nation that is not broken, merely unfinished, yet accurately reflecting the mood that if we all work to move beyond the bitterness, the vitriol, and the inflammatory language, we can strive to make our tomorrows better than our yesterday,” Simmons said.

Growing up in the era of the Obama presidency and now with Vice President Kamala Harris becoming the first woman and person of color as vice president, Gorman espouses an optimism about the future that I’d expect to hear from Generation Z.

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,” Gorman said in her inaugural poem.

Gorman sees barriers broken for her and other black girls’ futures. However, this country’s troubling history continues to have stubborn, unyielding, and systematic ways of tainting a possible future. And, the backbones of Black women carrying this nation leave some resolved that America is not ready to change. Blacks and other people of color are still battling voter suppression, police brutality, mass incarceration, health disparities, COVID, and policies that don’t help them. Many sisters hope this new and aspirational Biden-Harris administration will be more of substance than the symbolism of black and brown representation. Perhaps then, Black women can actualize Gorman’s vision.

I see the world quite differently than this beautiful and talented young woman. I’m not sure that she is talking to me. I am tired of being the resilient one. The one that has to carry the Republic on our backs as we “step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.” I am afraid and tired. I am not hopeful. I don’t see the light as something that is for my people or me - but I’m glad that the young sister sees the light and believes it is for her and others. Yes, the light has always been there, but it isn’t necessarily for black folks except to occasionally shine on our suffering, deaths, murders, inequities, etc.,” Armenta Hinton of Central Pennsylvania shared with me.

Gorman and Hinton express the bookends of varying views I’ve heard from black women across generations. I love Gorman’s poem. It envisions a future America many of us hope for - a multicultural democracy and a participatory government. However, I am cautious and caught between Gorman’s youthful optimism and Hinton’s lived-reality.

The Hill We Climb

By Amanda Gorman

When day comes we ask ourselves,
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry,
a sea we must wade
We've braved the belly of the beast
We've learned that quiet isn't always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn’t always just-ice
And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow we do it
Somehow we've weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished
We the successors of a country and 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
And yes we are far from polished
far from pristine
but that doesn’t mean we are
striving to form a union that is perfect
We are striving to forge a union with purpose
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and
conditions of man
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us
but what stands before us
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,
we must first put our differences aside
We lay down our arms
so we can reach out our arms
to one another
We seek harm to none and harmony for all
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew
That even as we hurt, we hoped
That even as we tired, we tried
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious
Not because we will never again know defeat
but because we will never again sow division
Scripture tells us to envision
that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree
And no one shall make them afraid
If we’re to live up to our own time
Then victory won’t lie in the blade
But in all the bridges we’ve made
That is the promised glade
The hill we climb
If only we dare
It's because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation
rather than share it
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy
And this effort very nearly succeeded
But while democracy can be periodically delayed
it can never be permanently defeated
In this truth
in this faith we trust
For while we have our eyes on the future
history has its eyes on us
This is the era of just redemption
We feared at its inception
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs
of such a terrifying hour
but within it we found the power
to author a new chapter
To offer hope and laughter to ourselves
So while once we asked,
how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?
Now we assert
How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was
but move to what shall be
A country that is bruised but whole,
benevolent but bold,
fierce and free
We will not be turned around
or interrupted by intimidation
because we know our inaction and inertia
will be the inheritance of the next generation
Our blunders become their burdens
But one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might,
and might with right,
then love becomes our legacy
and change our children’s birthright
So let us leave behind a country
better than the one we were left with
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest,
we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one
We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west,
we will rise from the windswept northeast
where our forefathers first realized revolution
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states,
we will rise from the sunbaked south
We will rebuild, reconcile and recover
and every known nook of our nation and
every corner called our country,
our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,
battered and beautiful
When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it Editorial Board member and Columnist, The Reverend Monroe is an ordained minister, motivational speaker and she speaks for a sector of society that is frequently invisible. Rev. Monroe does a weekly Monday segment, “All Revved Up!” on WGBH (89.7 FM), on Boston Public Radio and a weekly Friday segment “The Take” on New England Channel NEWS (NECN). She’s a Huffington Post blogger and a syndicated religion columnist. Her columns appear in cities across the country and in the U.K, and Canada. Also she writes a column in the Boston home LGBTQ newspaper Baywindows and Cambridge Chronicle. A native of Brooklyn, NY, Rev. Monroe graduated from Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University, and served as a pastor at an African-American church in New Jersey before coming to Harvard Divinity School to do her doctorate. She has received the Harvard University Certificate of Distinction in Teaching several times while being the head teaching fellow of the Rev. Peter Gomes, the Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church at Harvard who is the author of the best seller, THE GOOD BOOK. She appears in the film For the Bible Tells Me So and was profiled in the Gay Pride episode of In the Life, an Emmy-nominated segment. Monroe’s coming out story is profiled in “CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing up Gay in America" and in "Youth in Crisis." In 1997 Boston Magazine cited her as one of Boston's 50 Most Intriguing Women, and was profiled twice in the Boston Globe, In the Living Arts and The Spiritual Life sections for her LGBT activism. Her papers are at the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College's research library on the history of women in America. Her website is Contact the Rev. Monroe and BC.

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Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
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