So many people arrived at Clark’s MLK day celebration – to listen to and see Richard Blanco, the first Latino, immigrant and openly gay inaugural poet – that a mass exodus to a larger facility was required, leaving one particular FEDEX deliverer extremely frustrated, as he waited on the corner of Florence and Downing Streets for the 400-large procession, or “poetry stampede” as Mr. Blanco called it, to pass.
A year after becoming the youngest, and only the fifth inaugural poet, he shared his amazing experiences and works, as well as his love for poetry, with a brimming and eager audience.
He explained that, “A poem is a mirror where the poet and listener stand side by side looking at their own lives. But there’s a blurring…” where the two come together and create something truly amazing; where we are able to transcend and see ourselves within the poet’s story.
And that’s exactly what occurred in the packed room, where audience members chose to sit on the floor or stand due to lack of space. His poems, all very personal to him, transported listeners into his world – walking them through his life as an immigrant Cuban growing up in Miami through the 60s.
As he recited his poems and recounted memories, most of which centered around the issue of identity, it was amazing to hear about how, as a child of Cuban immigrants, he still felt like an outsider within society; despite spending nearly all his childhood in Miami.
His unassumingly funny descriptions, accompanied by his family photos on-screen, often left the audiences marveling as he artfully worked in the themes of his sense of belonging, patriotism, and sexuality.
Building up to the finale, his inaugural poem, “One Today”, he spoke of how until that moment, when he stood up to read it before the World, he had never truly felt American; that there was a small part of him that did not feel American.
His appointment as inaugural poet was a momentous one, showing us truly how far America has progressed since the days of Martin Luther King; how inclusion and equality are easier to come by now than they ever had been in Dr. King’s time.
That isn’t to say that his dream has been achieved; that discrimination in America no longer exists. No, this simply brings the USA one stepping-stone closer to making Martin Luther King’s dream a reality. There is still a long way to go.
– Pooja Patel