/Even I have my fears’ How Angie Thomas and ‘The Hate U Give’ went from Belhaven U to the big screen

Even I have my fears’ How Angie Thomas and ‘The Hate U Give’ went from Belhaven U to the big screen

New York City was one of her last stops prior to the film’s October 19 release. Thomas called Mississippi Today to talk about her experiences in Time Square, where she met Amandla Stenberg (The Hate U Give’s leading actress), and then sat down with Gayle King for an interview. Thomas spoke of his struggle to survive. “When you tell people you are from Mississippi, they think: ‘Oh, you grew-up on a farm.’ But I say, ‘No. My neighborhood was more like Compton.’” Thomas’ childhood neighborhood of Georgetown is one Jackson’s oldest African American housing areas. Thomas claims it’s a neighborhood that is “unfortunately well-known for all the wrong reasons” due to the high prevalence of drug use and neighborhood gangs. She said that her grandmother and mom made sure that the home was a safe place away from all that. “I was fortunate in the sense that my experiences weren’t as severe as those of my classmates and my friends.” Thomas’ family tried to protect her from violence and crime, but her family continued to struggle to make ends meet financially. She said that her family was poor and had to struggle at times. “Sometimes, I wasn’t even certain if we’d have the lights on.” Ambitionz as an author The Mississippi that Thomas knew served to remind her of the state’s past troubles. Especially since she lived in the former home of Medgar Evers, a civil rights activist who was killed. The issues that African-Americans had to face in the past were still relevant today, as her Mississippi proved. She said that reading and rap helped her escape from the harsh realities of life and allowed her to discover the voice that would eventually influence the world. Thomas stated that books were always a great escape. They were one of those things that got me out of everything. I often joke that I could ignore the shots at night in my neighbourhood if I wasn’t so consumed in Harry Potter.” Thomas was inspired by The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac and TLC’s provocative lyricism to sharpen her voice and empower her to use it. Thomas’s love for Tupac and appreciation led to her writing. Thomas’ novel’s title was inspired by the late rapper’s tattoo on her abdomen that reads “THUG LIVE,” which stands for “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everyone.” She thought rap was the best way she could express herself. But she soon realized that it wasn’t the right vehicle for her style of storytelling. Thomas stated, “Look at the Hate U Give.” It’s almost 400 pages. It’s impossible to fit that much into one song. I don’t have the talent to do this. Rap was for me a way to express myself and my opinion. It let me know that I had voice.” Thomas started researching college programs after she was unsure whether to become a screenwriter or novelist. Belhaven University is a private Christian liberal arts college located just ten minutes from Thomas’ home. Thomas stated that the school had both a screenwriting and creative writing program. “That’s what sold it to me,” Thomas said. Thomas stated that all of her professors knew her. After my grandmother died, one of my professors made it his business every weekend to cut our backyard. It was the family atmosphere, and I felt like I wasn’t just another person being pushed along. Thomas says she felt like a member of a family and that one of her professors encouraged her to share the stories from her community. Thomas wrote three stories set in the same neighborhood as Georgetown after struggling to decide which direction she should take for her senior creative writing project. Each story was told through the eyes of one of three main characters. Thomas graduated from Belhaven University in 2011. She said, “Deciding that to study creative writing was one of the most rewarding things I could ever have done for myself,” Thomas saw the lives of many young African-American men being cut while she was preparing for the rest of her adult life. She said, “I foolishly believed that after Oscar Grant’s death, there would be nothing like it again.” “But then Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown followed. Tamir Rice was next. And then, suddenly, I hear politicians… trying to justify these young men’s deaths like some classmates tried to justify Oscar Grant’s.” The resentful feeling was rekindled. Thomas returned to the short stories she had written in college because of the fear and frustration felt by young black children in her community and church. “I wanted to write something that would say, ‘I understand you. I get you. I understand you. After just one week of publication, The Hate U Give climbed to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list for young adult hardcover books. It has been there for more than 50 weeks. Thomas’ first and sole published novel has been on the bestsellers list for 85 weeks. . @angiecthomas is the author of @TheHateUGive. She meets her fans at Jackson’s Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. pic.twitter.com/QircIgmRmR — Sereena Henderson (@SereenaOnSocial) October 11, 2018 The stars align It was no secret in Hollywood that 13 publishers wanted to publish The Hate U Give. The buzz quickly spread throughout the film and literary worlds. George Tillman Jr. eventually received Thomas’ novel and directed films like Soul Food, Men of Honor, and Roll Bounce. Thomas stated that he read the book and wanted to speak to him. “So we got on the phone and he just told me how much he loved the book and what he saw it becoming as a movie. “I was immediately impressed by that first phone call. If we want to make this movie, that’s who it is.” Thomas was represented by the same talent agency. Amandla Stenberg, an actress, read the novel at the same time. The agents connected and the film project was approved. Thomas stated that Thomas fell in love with the film and wanted to be part of it immediately. It was all these elements. “It was all these different elements. It was a great feeling to be able to share it with so many people.” The collection of stories that had been sitting on a Jackson desk for years would one day become a “must-read” novel that will impact the lives of thousands of readers, especially students and teachers. After meeting Thomas last year at Square Books Oxford, Marsha Sanders McEwen was a Tupelo Middle School tutor and temporary substitute teacher. She introduced the novel’s story to her students. She has read it with about 10 students, but encourages all to read The Hate U Give. McEwen stated that Angelie prepared the spread. You can have whatever you like on the table. This movie will fill you up. I was literally full after reading the book. It was impossible to put down. It’s relatable and so instructive because of its simplicity. This is a teachable moment for every aspect of life: family, community and authority.” The trauma that follows is fictional, but The Hate U Give is inspired from something very real. According to the official website of Black Lives Matter, it was started by three radical black organizers in 2013, in response to Trayvon Martin’s killing. Thomas claims she has been through this harassment and has even considered quitting. She said that she was once subject to racial harassment on Twitter. This included death threats and racist graphics. “It made me feel like I had to stop speaking up. Starr was the inspiration for me, and I needed to look at her. Thomas seeks out the positive in all situations. According to Thomas, several police unions have criticised her novel and its messages. Some law enforcement agencies have joined forces with local schools to create book clubs. These clubs foster understanding and encourage community dialogue around her novel. This keeps her optimistic. Thomas says that Thomas’s turbulent past has made her more assertive and stronger. She said, “If nothing else I hope that I’m showing youth that even I am challenging.” This is not the end of my fears. Even I have my doubts. But it’s worth it to keep speaking up and speaking out.” For more information on Angie Thomas and The Hate U Give visit angiethomas.com.