Engaging the Senses Foundation stands by poet Amanda Gorman, whose poem, “The Hill We Climb,” was recently the subject of a Florida school ban along with so many other valuable literary pieces throughout the country. It was with profound sorrow that we read that the poem was one of several works banned at the Miami-Dade County school after a single challenge by a parent who complained that they referenced critical race theory, “indirect hate messages,” gender ideology and indoctrination, according to the Miami Herald.
As a literary foundation that believes passionately in the value of the spoken and written word, we applaud Ms. Gorman’s statement concerning the prohibition and are pleased to report that sales of all of her works have risen in response to the ban! Amanda’s voice and presence in the literary landscape should be lauded and promoted. Her history as a young, activist writer offers so much value, including the implicit encouragement of youth to express their thoughts and feelings during challenges they may not otherwise have the tools or life experience to deal with. ETSF has an active history of encouraging poetry education as a path toward stability and expression for young people, both in past initiatives such as poetry instruction for foster children at 5 Acres and currently through an educational program we are developing along with our film, based on The Story of Everything, (Emeritus Poet Laureate of Hawai’i’s long-form poem exploring humanity’s rich and diverse explanations for the origins of life).
Amanda Gorman is one of our most valued and visible young poets during an era that has seen inordinate challenges, along with a new awareness of the power of the arts to frame and shape public consciousness. She has become well known for both her poetry and her passionate advocacy for the environment and social justice issues. Appointed the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017, her performance of “The Hill We Climb” at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration received international attention. A special edition of “The Hill We Climb,” published in 2021, debuted at #1 on the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestsellers lists. ETSF was honored to contribute our support to an online conversation between Amanda and Dr. Elizabeth Alexander, president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation at Skirball Cultural Center in December of that same year.
Ms. Gorman’s statement concerning the ban reads: “I’m gutted. Because of one parent’s complaint, my inaugural poem, ‘The Hill We Climb,’ has been banned from an elementary school in Miami-Dade County, Florida.”
“And let’s be clear: most of the forbidden works are by authors who have struggled for generations to get on bookshelves,” she continued. “The majority of these censored works are by queer and non-white voices. I wrote ‘The Hill We Climb’ so that all young people could see themselves in a historical moment. Ever since. I’ve received countless letters and videos from children inspired by ‘The Hill We Climb’ to write their own poems.”
“Robbing children of the chance to find their voices in literature is a violation of their right to free thought and free speech. Together, this is a hill we won’t just climb, but a hill we will conquer.”
Please join ETSF and poet Amanda Gorman in the support and encouragement of open access to art and literature and poetry, so that our young people may freely and without fear explore their own paths and values!
Poets Amanda Gorman and Elizabeth Alexander