Amanda Gorman cemented her place in history on January 20, 2021; becoming the youngest Inaugural poet in United States history. Her poem at President Joe Biden’s Inauguration felt warm and reassuring.
“We will rebuild, reconcile and recover
and every known nook of our nation
and every corner called our country,
our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,
battered and beautiful.”
January was a wild month but it was refreshing to see and hear Amanda Gorman at the Inauguration. She’s only 22 years old but spoke with so much poise and confidence!
A team of Black creative professionals prepared Amanda for the portraits: Jason Bolden styled her, Autumn Moultrie did her makeup, Khiry provided jewelry and the dress was from Greta Constantine.
The magazine package also features typography from Tré Seals, the founder of Vocal Type foundry, who specializes in making type inspired by communities of color and social justice movements. “When a singular perspective dominates an industry, regardless of any advancements in technology, there can be (and has been) only one way of thinking, teaching and creating,” Seals says. His bold, declarative typography, in a font called Neue Black, opens the package with its defining statement: “THE RENAISSANCE IS BLACK.”
Words by IBRAM X. KENDI for TIME:
In this first Black History Month after the racial reckoning of 2020, I feel impelled to do what historians rarely do: mark history while the story is still being written. We are living in a time when the white gaze remains ever present in American life, but is hardly dominant among today’s assemblage of courageous Black creators. We are living in the time of a new renaissance—what we are calling the Black Renaissance—the third great cultural revival of Black Americans, after the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, after the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Black creators today were nurtured by these past cultural revivals—and all those brilliant creators who sustained Black Arts during the 1980s and 1990s. But if the Harlem Renaissance stirred Black people to see themselves, if the Black Arts Movement stirred Black people to love themselves, then the Black Renaissance is stirring Black people to be themselves. Totally. Unapologetically. Freely.
As Beyoncé wrote in 2018, “I like to be free. I’m not alive unless I am creating something.”
A renaissance does not emerge on its own. Structures must be built to allow creativity to truly flourish. During the past six or so years, Black artists formed mechanisms to lift up their own work and that of their peers: Lena Waithe created a mentorship program, and Ava DuVernay a film distribution and resource collective. Leaders in the publishing industry, like Tracy Sherrod and my own editor, Chris Jackson, are running their own imprints and delivering the mighty literature of Ta-Nehisi Coates and the late great Cicely Tyson. Numerous creators are following in Oprah’s and Spike Lee’s footsteps and building their own entertainment and production companies, signing and managing and inspiring young superstars like Chloe x Halle. And all of this has coincided with a moment when white executives, out of shame or guilt, goodwill or good (money) sense, began to seek out our stories and storytellers in greater numbers.