Split Between Two Worlds

This weekend theatres everywhere will welcome a movie that audiences aren’t likely to forget. The Hate U Give shares the perspective of a young African-American female who is coming-of-age split between two worlds. Starr Carter lives in the hood but goes to an affluent, all-white school. At school, she adopts a different style of speech so she’ll fit in and is forced to emulate the society she sees at her prep school. At home, though, she has to be hard and pull out her black cards daily. Starr’s world is violently upended when (spoiler alert) she witnesses her best friend being shot by a police officer, the kind of shooting you hear about on television more often than not these days. The kind of shooting that starts riots, rallies, and revolts.


Life in America for Us

I saw the movies nearly a month ago, yet it’s taken me this long to write about it. The emotions I experienced while watching the movie run so deep that I’m sure I can put them all into words. Some can only be translated with a look or a nod. The feelings are real. The pain you will experience is real, and the hollowness reflects real trauma.  I saw the movie during a national conference of mayors. Quite honestly, I’m not sure I would have gone to the movie if I knew what I was going to see. A friend told me it was a good movie. She didn’t tell me that I would cry or leave angry. She certainly didn’t tell me that I would feel exposed because I watched it surrounded by people who don’t look like me.

This movie jumps off the screen and feels like life in America today for so many of us. Yet, the obstacles and challenges that Starr overcomes before walking into her first prom are things I hope none of us ever experience.

While watching the movie, I wondered if I would be like Starr had I experienced what she did. She becomes an advocate for her slain friend, uses her voice to inspire her community, and bosses up on the witness stand. Each time we watch Starr lose her innocence, she allows her light to shine brighter. There’s no doubt that she’s a #Firestarter! Starr is just as beautiful on the outside as she is complicated on the inside. She challenges herself more when many tell her to back down.

Conversation Starter

This movie goes beyond police brutality it serves as a solid conversation starter for parents and their children. From code-switching, to what to do if you get pulled over by cops to dealing with the anger you feel when a loved one dies, and, of course, race— there are so many reasons you should watch this movie and then discuss it with those you love.

As part of my day job, I participate in the meetings of the US Conference of Mayors. USCOM is a membership group that convenes Mayors of America’s cities to share ideas and tackle issues as a body. Its current President, Stephen Benjamin who is the Mayor of Columbia, SC is a genius for strategically placing this on the agenda of their Fall gathering. Mayors from across the country watched this movie together starting a dialogue with their colleagues. Mayor Oliver Gilbert of Miami Gardens spoke after the event and challenged his peers to go beyond surface conversations and to ask questions even if they were uncomfortable to ask each other. The actions of Mayors Benjamin and Gilbert are desperately needed to end this type of hate in our country. 

That day we were fortunate enough to watch the movie with the director George Tillman who also directed Soul Food and Barber Shop. He paid homage to Angie Thomas, the author of the young adult novel the movie is based on. I haven’t read the book yet but I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully, I won’t cry as much this time around since I know what’s going to happen. Yes, I couldn’t hold the tears even though the person sitting beside me holds the title of Mayor. We are all human, right? 

I give a round of applause to all of those who brought this message to life because this film is helping to shape the conversation in America about race, community policing and hate. And above all, the film and its creators are giving a voice to many underrepresented and marginalized groups in our country.

I think it’s important that we also have a conversation about the movie after we watch it. Drop me a line, #Firestarter, and let me know what you think. There are also community groups sponsoring kids to see the movie at theatres. Keep an eye out for the groups and thank them for helping to be the change we want to see in our communities. Most importantly, don’t forget the hate you give others lives. It is translated to their everyday experiences, interactions with others and the energy we feel in our communities. Choose an action of love, grace or kindness today. We need you, #Firestarter!


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