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The Hate U Give Cast Talks Black Storytelling, Code-Switching

Angie Thomas debut novel The Hate U Give was released when America needed it most. The book, which touches on racism and police brutality as seen through the lens of a present-day black teenage girl, published in February 2017 and instantly topped The New York Times best-seller list. Now the game-changing novel is poised to shake up Hollywood when its film adaption hits theaters this fall.

In the movie, lead actress Amandla Stenberg of The Hunger Games plays Starr Carter, a teen who witnesses the murder of her unarmed black male best friend by the hands of white police. All the while, Starr struggles with the pressure of constantly switching between two worlds: the poor, mostly black neighborhood where she lives and the rich, mostly white, prep school she attends, reads the films synopsis.

According to Stenberg, the film unpacks the nuances of the African American experience and depicts what its like to be black in America today. 

We so often get stories of black life rooted in pain, fear and struggle. Of course, that is a part of this story as well, but its also about all of the different facets of our interpersonal connections and relationships as black people, how we relate to and love our communities, [and] how we react to events and find our strength.

  • The Hate U Give director George Tillman Jr., who directed Soul Food and the 2009 biopic Notorious, says the power of the film lies in the characters and their ability to connect with the audience.

Heres a 16-year-old girl. She loves Nike. She listens to Kendrick Lamar. Shes loves Will Smiths Fresh Prince and TLC. She loves Lebron. She lives in two different worlds, where in the white world, she acts white. But when she goes to a house party, she has to put on her black card.

Stenberg says that Starr’s struggle with code-switching in order to assimilate with her white classmates when at school and then again when around her neighborhood friends is a complex that faced in her own life.

Growing up in a lower income black community, I went to public school in elementary school and then when I was 10 which is the same age as Starr was in the book I started going to white private school. It was a huge switch up and I had to learn not only the culture of whiteness, but the culture of wealth and how to kind of present an image that would was relatable to these kids with whom I didnt have that much to relate. I had to figure out how to constantly project an image that was not fully authentic to me, said Stenberg, who grew up in a biracial family in Los Angeles. My personal journey mirrors Starrs in a myriad of ways.  

She continued, I think thats what so nuanced about Starr in finding who she is by the end of the story, she also realizes how all of these different facets of her are integral to who she is. By the end of the book, shes about to turn 17. I was at a similar age when I realized that I didnt need to make myself smaller, less loud, or less black in order to exist.

Regina Hall, who plays Starrs mother in the movie, said she intuitively knew the project would be special when she signed on. Im excited for the world to experience and feel this story, she told us, adding that shes confident that audiences will feel something that will resonate deep within their humanity.

Russel Hornsby, who stars as Starrs father, said he hopes The Hate U Give will educate diverse audiences about the beauty and resilience of black people. It is a black thing, but let us help you understand who we are, how we live, how we feel, how we love.

The Hate U Give will hit theaters on October 19, 2018. Watch the trailer below.

The Hate U Give | Official Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX

Starr Carter is constantly switching between two worlds: the poor, mostly black, neighborhood where she lives and the rich, mostly white, prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer.

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