Amanda Gorman Says Family Practiced 'Shielding My Body from Bullets' Before Inauguration Performance

·2 min read
Amanda Gorman
Amanda Gorman

Amy Sussman/Getty Amanda Gorman

Amanda Gorman is opening up about preparing for her history-making performance at Joe Biden's inauguration in an essay for The New York Times, which was published on Thursday.

While Gorman, 23, gave a powerful and inspiring performance of her poem, "The Hill We Climb," in front of hundreds of high-profile public figures and millions of viewers nationwide, the days before her groundbreaking poem recital were filled with fear for a multitude of reasons — and she almost declined the honor altogether.

"Just a few weeks before, domestic terrorists assaulted the U.S. Capitol, the very steps where I would recite," she wrote. "I didn't know then that I'd become famous, but I did know at the inauguration I was going to become highly visible — which is a very dangerous thing to be in America, especially if you're Black and outspoken and have no Secret Service."

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Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman
Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman

Rob Carr/Getty Amanda Gorman recites a poem at Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20.

Continued Gorman: "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."

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The Harvard graduate went on to write that after going back and forth on whether or not to perform, one of her biggest worries of pulling out of the inauguration was that she'd "spend the rest of my life wondering what this poem could have achieved."

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"On that Jan. 20, what I found waiting beyond my fear was every person who searched beyond their own fears to find space for hope in their lives," the activist — who is the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history — wrote, later adding, "So do not fear your fear. Own it. Free it."

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While her words have undoubtedly inspired millions around the globe, sharing her poetry with the world has also inspired Gorman herself.

"I spent a lifetime thinking about the power of language, and what it feels like when that power is withheld from you," she told PEOPLE in the March 2021 issue spotlighting Women Changing the World, adding that performing her poetry got her thinking about a shift in her future in politics — something she had been pondering while attending Harvard.

"Now I realized that perhaps my path will be a different one, that it might be performing my poetry and touching people that way, and then entering public office from a platform that was built off of my beliefs and thoughts and ideas," explained Gorman.

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