As A Young Black Poet, I Saw Myself In Amanda Gorman On The Inauguration Stage

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Amanda Gorman

During Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s inauguration ceremony, I watched as 22-year-old poet, Amanda Gorman, made history as the youngest inaugural poet.

Gorman, who was the Youth Poet Laureate of 2017, performed a piece called “The Hill We Climb.” She told The New York Times that her process for writing the poem was jotting down a few lines per day.

“I had this huge thing, probably one of the most important things I’ll ever do in my career. It was like, if I try to climb this mountain all at once, I’m just going to pass out,” she recalled. 

Her piece seemed to fit with the theme of January 20: peace, unity, and hope.

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It isn’t often that I am introduced to many young Black poets, especially ones who are like me — Black women in their early 20s. But watching Gorman on that stage, in the eyes of millions of people as she recited a poem about the past, present, and future of America was truly something I absorbed with happiness.

After watching the clip, I seemed to almost reflect on my own poetry. Though I have only recently become enthralled with poetry, I found some of my own words in Gorman’s writing.

Her words referencing the insurrection at the Capitol captured my attention, as she said the following: “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.”

It’s her willingness to not evade from the reality of America as she calls out the faults that have been written into this country for far too long.

"In my poem, I’m not going to in any way gloss over what we’ve seen over the past few weeks and, dare I say, the past few years. But what I really aspire to do in the poem is to be able to use my words to envision a way in which our country can still come together and can still heal,” she said. 

“It’s doing that in a way that is not erasing or neglecting the harsh truths I think America needs to reconcile with.”

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As a Black person, it sometimes feels as if I am much too scared to confront much of the uneasiness that has followed me and people who look like me.

I’ve written scraps of unfinished poems, and half-thoughts in too many journals that I have convinced myself could never be published because it’s too real, too raw.

But Gorman got on that stage, and she proudly let her Blackness shine through the words of her poem, and it made me proud to know the world was listening.

So I’m following after Amanda Gorman, and I won’t hold back on my own voice.

I shouldn’t be afraid of hindering myself for the comfort of others, because maybe one day, I can be on the stage at a Presidential inauguration, inspiring other Black girls.

With that being said, here’s a poem I wrote, titled “Brown Like Me.”

brown like me

see a girl on tv and she is

dull, mean, ugly.

comedic relief, she is

brown like me.

the protagonist is intelligent,

humble, witty. 

charisma undeniable, she is

pale and lovely.

liked a boy once, tragedy from the start.

think he liked me too, but he said he did not

go for girls who were brown

like me. 

said it wasn’t personal, but i took it so.

been told

by relatives and strangers that i’m pretty for a

brown girl 

(but stay out of the sun!) 

understand how venomous such a sweetly coated compliment can be

brown is impure? dirty?

white synonymous with

sacred? holy?

from the age of 9. 

reflections told me my nose was too flat, my hair too

wild, my eyes too big, my skin too brown

too brown?

golden skin, a deep bronze glow

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kissed by the sun so lovingly.

the color white girls pay hundreds of dollars for, only to end up an

oxidized shade of orange.

the color passed down to me by generations 

holding so much knowledge and history 

i may never know due to 

the erasure of culture in exchange for 

fair and lovely.

again i say

too brown?

there is no such thing.

greet the sun’s kisses with a warm embrace and marvel at the way

emerald green and red flatter your every movement.

nose fits so nicely, eyes

sparkle, skin glows.

they’ll tell you brown is dirty, how unlucky, how ugly. 

remember this:

brown is lovely.

brown is lovely.

brown is lovely.

– Nia Tipton

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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Chicago. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.