Amanda Gorman’s famous poem is restricted in a Florida school : NPR
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Amanda Gorman’s poem heralded a presidential inauguration and a UN General Assembly — but access to it is now restricted at a Miami-Dade County school, the latest casualty in the fight over library books .
The complaint filed against Gorman’s book The Hill We Climb — named after the poem she famously recited during President Biden’s 2021 inauguration — alleges that the work is “not educational,” contains indirect hate speech and should not be in schools.
After a review, the Bob Graham Education Center, a K-8 school in Miami Lakes, decided to keep the book — but only if it was placed on the shelf in an area reserved for middle school students.
“We’re really troubled by this,” Daniella Pierre, president of the Miami-Dade branch of the NAACP, told NPR on Wednesday, noting that one person’s complaint led to the change.
“The form, based on what has been provided and shared with us, does not even appear to be completely filled out or express a complete thought,” said Pierre. “It is our collective goal to work on amending school board policy and enacting changes to ensure that it takes more than one form to undo our history and legacy.”
What does the complaint say?
The complaint came from Miami Lakes resident Daily Salinas, who has two children in Bob Graham. She claims that Gorman’s book will cause confusion and indoctrinate children. NPR reviewed the complaint and other materials after they were obtained through a records request to the school district from the Florida Freedom to Read Project.
Salinas did not fill out the forms completely. And to one question, asking if she has seen professional reviews of the materials, she replied, “I don’t need it.”
Screenshot from NPR
The complaint about Gorman’s poem does not name her, and wrongly claimed that the author or publisher was Oprah Winfrey — who wrote the book’s foreword. During the school’s review, an eight-person committee clarified that point, noting Gorman’s place in history as the first National Youth Poet Laureate and the youngest poet to read at an inauguration presidential. The committee said her book has educational value – but added that “the vocabulary used in the poem was determined to be of value to middle school students.”
Salinas also filed complaints about four other books: The ABCs of Black History; Cuban kids; Countries in the News Cuba; and Love to Langston.
The process moved quickly: Just a week after Salinas filed her complaints on March 29, the school committee ruled that many of the books on her list should not be seen by younger students. Salinas had requested that the materials be removed “from the total environment.”
The school’s action “is very typical of Florida right now,” Raegan Miller of the Florida Freedom to Read Project told NPR, noting that many school districts are being extremely cautious in handling complaints about the books.
“I’m sure many are afraid of being investigated” or punished, Miller added, citing the current political climate in Florida and the lack of clear legal guidance.
What do Gorman and others say?
Miami-Dade County Public Schools told NPR that in response to the complaint, “No literature (books or poetry) was banned or removed.” The school determined that Gorman’s poem was more suitable for older students, the district said, adding that it is still available, in the middle school section of the media center.
Gorman is pushing back on that position, stating via Twitter“A textbook ban is any action taken against a textbook that allows access to a restricted or reduced textbook.”
In another message, Gorman said she is “gutted” that elementary school students no longer have access to her poetry. She wrote it, she added, “so that all young people can see themselves in a historical moment”.
Google Maps/Screenshot from NPR
“And let’s be clear: many of the banned works are by authors who have struggled for generations to get on the bookshelves,” Gorman said. “The majority of these censored works are from queer, non-white voices.”
As part of its decision, the school committee decided this The ABCs of Black History it should also move to the middle school space, even though it is intended for readers aged 5 and up.
Rio Cortez, the author of the book, stated“It just affirms for me that there is a revolutionary power in the understanding of history.”
What does Gorman’s poem say?
When Gorman recited “The Hill We Climb” at the US Capitol building, the poem was hailed as an inspirational message for a country that has been working to form a more perfect union.
The complaint aimed at Gorman’s book stated that it contains “indirectly hateful messages,” and cites pages 12 and 13. In an edition that includes Winfrey’s foreword, pages 12 and 13 read:
We’ve braved the belly of the beast.
We have learned that quiet is not always peace,
And the norms and concepts of what “just is”
Not always justice.
And yet the dawn is ours before we know it.
Somehow, we make it.
Somehow, we took time and witness
A nation that is not broken, but simply