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'This Is The Reality Of Black Girls': Inauguration Poet Says She Was Tailed By Guard

Former National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman arrives at the inauguration of US President-elect Joe Biden on the West Front of the US Capitol on Jan. 20 in Washington, D.C. Gorman says she was tailed Friday night by a security guard who said she looked "suspicious."
Former National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman arrives at the inauguration of US President-elect Joe Biden on the West Front of the US Capitol on Jan. 20 in Washington, D.C. Gorman says she was tailed Friday night by a security guard who said she looked "suspicious."

To millions of people around the world, the young poet Amanda Gorman represents hope, change and the promise of a better America.

But to a security guard on Friday night, the young African American woman represented a potential threat to public safety.

The Harvard-educated Gorman, who won wide acclaim with her inauguration poem urging the nation to confront the injustices of the past and work to create a better future, says she was tailed by a security guard on her walk home.

Gorman, who lives in Los Angeles, wrote on Twitter that as she approached her building, the guard demanded to know if she lived there. "You look suspicious," he allegedly said.

"I showed my keys & buzzed myself into my building," the 22-year-old Gorman wrote. "He left, no apology. This is the reality of black girls: One day you're called an icon, the next day, a threat.

"In a sense, he was right," the former National Youth Poet Laureate added. "I AM A THREAT: a threat to injustice, to inequality, to ignorance. Anyone who speaks the truth and walks with hope is an obvious and fatal danger to the powers that be."

Gorman rose to national prominence after being tapped to write a poem for President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration. In an interview with NPR, Gorman explained that in preparing her poem, she researched the work of past inaugural poets, and looked to orators who have spoken not just about an America divided, but also the possibility of an America united.

The poem was halfway finished when a pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6. Gorman added a verse to refer to the insurrection:

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.

Gorman's words and impassioned delivery made her the breakout star of President Biden's inauguration. Her poem, entitled "The Hill We Climb," envisions an America that continually course-corrects, with an eye toward creating a future committed to all cultures.

"If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children's birthright," she wrote. "So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.