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Poet and activist Amanda Gorman wrote in a New York Times op-ed that she nearly declined reciting her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the presidential inauguration out of fear for her life. CNN reported she felt herself and her family would be targeted by the white supremacist mob who had previously rioted the Capitol Building Jan 6.
She wrote, “A loved one warned be to be ready to die if I went to the Capitol building, telling me, ‘It’s just not worth it.’” Gorman said via the Times that she dwelled on the thought of being on center stage and the potential dangers of the exposure.
From New York Times:
It didn’t help that I was getting DMs from friends telling me not so jokingly to buy a bulletproof vest. My mom had us crouch in our living room so that she could practice shielding my body from bullets. A loved one warned me to “be ready to die” if I went to the Capitol, telling me, “It’s just not worth it.” I had insomnia and nightmares, barely ate or drank for days. I finally wrote to some close friends and family, telling them that I was most likely going to pull out of the ceremony.
I got some texts praising the Lord. I got called pathologically insane. But I knew only I could answer the question for myself: Was this poem worth it?
Gorman wrote the night before she was to make her decision on performing felt like the longest night of her life. However, she encouraged herself to not be swallowed by fear and instead let it guide her to finding out what her poem’s impact could be. “I can’t say I was completely confident in my choice, but I was completely committed to it,” she wrote via the Times.
Gorman said the morning of the Inauguration she prepared herself by reciting a mantra: I am the daughter of Black writers. We’re descended from freedom fighters who broke their chains, and they changed the world. They call me. On that day, she wrote, she found that beyond her own fears were people who looked beyond their fears “to find space for hope.”
From the Times:
I’m a firm believer that often terror is trying to tell us of a force far greater than despair. In this way, I look at fear not as cowardice but as a call forward, a summons to fight for what we hold dear. And now more than ever, we have every right to be affected, afflicted, affronted. If you’re alive, you’re afraid. If you’re not afraid, then you’re not paying attention. The only thing we have to fear is having no fear itself having no feeling on behalf of whom and what we’ve lost, whom and what we love.
Gorman is brave without a doubt. Back in the Civil Rights Era, she would’ve been the greatest threat to those who wanted Black Americans to give up their fight. Now, we’re looking at a new fight for our civil rights and Amanda Gorman will definitely be a force remembered in the history books.
“This time will be different because this time we’ll be different. We already are. And yes, I still am terrified every day. Yet fear can be love trying its best in the dark. So do not fear your fear. Own it. Free it,” said Gorman.