Life has been a world-wind for inaugural poet laureate Amanda Gorman. After her riveting poem that captured the hearts of Americans everywhere, there’s been a heightened interest in what the young Harvard graduate has to say. So when TIME published their special project, “The Black Renaissance,” there was no surprise that it would feature the famed poet in conversation with non other that our forever First Lady, Michelle Obama.
“The Black Renaissance” was created in partnership with historian and author Ibram X. Kendi, to celebrate the power of Black art, marking this current moment in history as the Black Renaissance.
The wave of Black excellence has been at an all-time high. Creatively speaking, we’ve witnessed some of the greatest forms of artistic expression of our time. Because arts and politics often go hand in hand, it made sense to feature prominent Black figures like Gorman, Brit Bennett, Jasmine Guillory and Jacqueline Woodson in the latest TIME issue.
“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 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,” Kendi said.
Gorman had the honor of sitting down with Michelle Obama to discuss the Black Renaissance. Here’s an exert from their conversation:
“We’re here to talk about the current renaissance in Black art—this surge of creativity we’ve seen over the past six years or so. What do you make of calling this period a “renaissance”? And where do you see yourself within it?” Michelle asked.
“We’re living in an important moment in Black art because we’re living in an important moment in Black life. Whether that’s looking at what it means politically to have an African-American President before Trump, or looking at what it means to have the Black Lives movement become the largest social movement in the United States. What’s been exciting for me is I get to absorb and to live in that creation I see from other African-American artists that I look up to. But then I also get to create art and participate in that historical record…. In all the forms of expression of human life, we’re seeing that artistry be informed by the Black experience. I can’t imagine anything more exciting than that,” Amanda replied.
We are living in a Black Renaissance indeed. The creative heights that we’ve made in art, music, sports, and politics has peaked over the last few years and it’s been a privilege to witness. You can read more of Gorman and Obama’s conversation in the latest issue of TIME, available today.