Amanda Gorman and my own battles with claiming my voice

Amanda Gorman reciting “The Hill We Climb” on January 20, 2021. Credit: Patrick Semansky/AP

By the time I had turned on the TV to watch the inauguration, I had missed most of it. A hectic morning trying to soothe a cantankerous four-month old meant I would have to see clips of the event after the fact. I caught the live telecast just as Amanda Gorman was set to recite her soul-stirring poem “The Hill We Climb.” As she took the stage, radiant in her bright yellow jacket and red headpiece, the morning’s frustrations began to recede. And when she gifted us her words, I could feel the nation let out a collective sigh of…

The author looking pensively at her unborn child. Photo by Kathy Ballard-Cowell.

On May 10th, 2020 I woke up to a few messages from close friends and family. They were wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day. Twenty-two weeks pregnant with my first child, I had not realized that technically it was my first Mother’s Day. I had recently begun to feel my son moving inside me, a son for whom I already felt immense love even though I had not yet set eyes on him other than through a grainy black-and-white sonogram photo.

While touched by the well wishes of my support group, I did not see this day as one to…

Maya Angela Smith

Associate Professor of French and Italian Studies at the University of Washington. Interested in language, race, and migration. Author of Senegal Abroad.

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