Amanda Gorman’s poetry has heralded a presidential inauguration and a U.N. General Assembly — but access to it is now restricted at a Miami-Dade County school, the latest casualty in the fight over library books.
After a review, the Bob Graham Education Center, a K-8 school in Miami Lakes, decided to retain the book — but only if it’s shelved in an area reserved for middle school students.
“We are indeed troubled by this,” Daniella Pierre, president of the Miami-Dade branch of the NAACP, told NPR on Wednesday, noting that one person’s complaint prompted 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,” Pierre said. “It is our collective goal to work on amending school board policy and effectuating changes to ensure that it takes more than one form to remove our history and heritage.”
What does the complaint say?
The complaint came from Miami Lakes resident Daily Salinas, who has two children at Bob Graham. It alleges Gorman’s book would 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 entirely. And for one question, asking whether she has seen professional reviews of the materials, she replied, “I don’t need it.”
The complaint about Gorman’s poem does not mention her, incorrectly asserting 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 a presidential inauguration. Her book has educational value, the committee said — but it added that the “vocabulary used in the poem was determined to be of value for 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 one week after Salinas filed her complaints on March 29, the school committee decided most of the books on her list should not be seen by younger students. Salinas had requested the materials be removed “from the total environment.”
The school’s action “is very typical for 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 books.
“I am certain that many are fearful they will be 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?
In an interview with member station WLRN, Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz said the school was following policy.
“The process worked,” he said. “A parent has the right to make a complaint. But the process was put into effect and it worked where they deemed the proper placement of the books. And the students still have access to it at the right level. And no books were banned.”
Miami-Dade County Public Schools told NPR that in response to the complaint, “No literature (books or poem) has been banned or removed.” The school determined Gorman’s poem was better suited 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 school book ban is any action taken against a book that leaves access to a book restricted or diminished.”
In another message, Gorman said she is “gutted” that elementary schoolers no longer have access to her poem. She wrote it, she added, “so that all young people could see themselves in a historical moment.”
“And let’s be clear: most of the forbidden works are by authors who have struggled for generations to get on the bookshelves,” Gorman said. “The majority of these censored works are by queer and non-white voices.”
As part of its decision, the school committee ruled that The ABCs of Black History should also move to the middle school space, despite being intended for readers ages 5 and older.
Rio Cortez, the book’s author, stated, “It only further affirms for me that there’s revolutionary power in understanding history.”
What does Gorman’s poem say?
When Gorman recited “The Hill We Climb” at the U.S. Capitol building, the poem was hailed as an inspirational message for a country that has long toiled to form a more perfect union.
The complaint targeting Gorman’s book stated that it includes “indirectly hate messages,” citing 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’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, And the norms and notions of what “just is” Isn’t always justice.
And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it. Somehow, we do it. Somehow, we’ve weathered and witnessed A nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.
Elizabeth Eden Harris, known professionally as Cupcakke, is an American rapper from Chicago, Illinois. She is known for her hypersexualised, brazen, and often comical persona
Elizabeth Eden Harris, known professionally as Cupcakke, is an American rapper from Chicago, Illinois. She is known for her hypersexualised, brazen, and often comical persona and music although she has also made songs with themes supporting LGBTQ rights, female empowerment, and autism awareness.
Acclaimed GRAMMY-winning multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello makes her Blue Note Records debut with the June 16 release of The Omnichord Real Book, a visionary
Acclaimed GRAMMY-winning multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello makes her Blue Note Records debut with the June 16 release of The Omnichord Real Book, a visionary and deeply jazz-influenced album that marks the start of a new chapter in her trailblazing career. Following her 2018 covers album Ventriloquism, Meshell returns with an album of new original material that taps into a broad spectrum of her musical roots. The Omnichord Real Book was produced by Josh Johnson and features a wide range of guest artists including Jason Moran, Ambrose Akinmusire, Joel Ross, Jeff Parker, Brandee Younger, Julius Rodriguez, Mark Guiliana, Cory Henry, Joan As Police Woman, Thandiswa, and others.
The Omnichord Real Book is introduced today by the expansive lead single “Virgo,” the mind-altering 8-minute centerpiece of the album which features Meshell on vocals, key bass, and keyboards, Younger on harp, Rodriguez on Farfisa organ, Chris Bruce on guitar, Jebin Bruni on keyboards, drums by Abe Rounds, Deantoni Parks, and Andrya Ambro, and additional vocals by Kenita Miller and Marsha DeBoe. The Omnichord Real Book is available for pre-order now on Blue Note Store exclusive color vinyl, black vinyl, CD, and digital.
“It’s a little bit of all of me, my travels, my life,” says Meshell. “My first record I made at 22, and it’s over 30 years from then, so I have a lot of stored information to share.” Reflecting on the impact that the forced stillness of the pandemic lockdown had on her, she says “I must admit it was a beautiful time for me. I got to really sit and reacquaint myself with music. Music is a gift.”
“This album is about the way we see old things in new ways,” Meshell explains. “Everything moved so quickly when my parents died. Changed my view of everything and myself in the blink of an eye. As I sifted through the remains of their life together, I found my first Real Book, the one my father gave me. I took their records, the ones I grew up hearing, learning, remembering. My mother gifted me with her ache, I carry the melancholy that defined her experience and, in turn, my experience of this thing called life calls me to disappear into my imagination and to hear the music.”
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