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Amanda Gorman tells of being followed by security guard who said she looked 'suspicious'

Mattha Busby
·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/AP</span>
Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/AP

Amanda Gorman, the poet who won acclaim for her performance at Joe Biden’s inauguration, has told of being followed home and accosted by a security guard who allegedly claimed she looked suspicious.

She said the incident, on Friday night, was emblematic of “the reality of black girls” in the US, in which “one day you’re called an icon” but the next day considered a threat.

Gorman wrote on Twitter:

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She said in a following tweet: “In a sense, he was right. 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, 22, from Los Angeles, shared a post she made in February which said: “We live in a contradictory society that can celebrate a black girl poet & also pepper spray a 9 yr old” – in reference to a recent incident in Rochester, New York, that led to protests and three police officers being suspended pending the completion of an investigation.

A favourite with Democratic establishment figures, the youngest inaugural poet in US history was named the country’s’ first youth poet laureate in 2017, when she was a student at Harvard. The Guardian has contacted her for further comment. She did not indicate the ethnic origin of the security guard.

A Virginia state legislator, Mark Keam, tweeted: “Let this story sink in. And realise how – while I’m glad it ended safe for Amanda Gorman – this type of confrontation is an every day occurrence for millions of our fellow Americans.”

In her inauguration poem, The Hill We Climb, Gorman described herself as “a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother [who] can dream of becoming president, only to find her self reciting for one”.

She also spoke of “striving to forge a union with purpose / To compose a country committed to all cultures, colours, characters and conditions of man.”

Talking to the New York Times, Gorman said she had been struggling to write the inaugural poem. But she was compelled to stay up all night and finish it after the 6 January assault on the US Capitol.

“I’m the daughter of Black writers,” Gorman said after the inauguration. “We’re descended from freedom fighters who broke through chains and change the world.”

Gorman also performed at this year’s Super Bowl and has recently been signed by IMG Models. Her forthcoming books, the poetry collection The Hill We Climb and the children’s book Change Sings, shot to the top of book charts after her inauguration performance.

“I AM ON THE FLOOR MY BOOKS ARE #1 & #2 ON AMAZON AFTER 1 DAY!” she wrote on Twitter. Gorman has described herself as having been a bookworm as a child and overcoming a speech impediment in her youth.

She is also the founder of charity One Pen One Page, which supports underprivileged young people through writing.