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Florida school restricts access to Black writer’s Biden inauguration poem

A celebrated poem by a Black writer who read it at President Joe Biden’s inauguration has been banned for young students at a school in Miami, a group fighting such restrictions said Wednesday.

The school called the Bob Graham Education Center acted after the mother of two students complained about Amanda Gorman’s poem entitled “The Hill We Climb.”

Under Governor Ron DeSantis, an arch conservative set to run for president in the 2024 election, Florida has been a battleground for clashes over cultural and social issues in the United States.

Scores of books have been removed from the state’s school library shelves in recent months, deemed inappropriate for children by conservative parents and school boards.

In this new case, a woman asked in late March that five works in the Bob Graham library be removed on grounds they served to indoctrinate children, according to documents obtained by the Florida Freedom to Read Project, and shared with AFP. 

One of those works is “The Hill We Climb” which Gorman, then 22, read at Biden’s inauguration in January 2021.

The poem was a call for unity and hope in politically polarized America, and Gorman became an overnight star after reading it on the steps of the US Capitol. 

It has now been removed from the Bob Graham library used by first graders and placed in a section reserved for kids over age 11.

A school material review committee did not explain the reasons for its action.

Gorman, the first person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate, said she was devastated.

“I wrote ‘The Hill We Climb’ so that all young people could see themselves in a historical moment,” she wrote on Twitter.

“Robbing children of the chance to find their voices in literature is a violation of their right to free thought and free speech.”

The school review committee said the poem did have “educational value because of its historical significance.”

Gorman was the youngest poet ever to perform at a US presidential inauguration.

News of the library restrictions came a week after publisher Penguin Random House and writers’ group PEN America filed a lawsuit against a Florida school district over the removal of books from public school libraries that address race and LGBTQ issues.

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