Talk with Angie Thomas

Ashli Alexander

On February 13, Angie Thomas, the author of The Hate U Give, visited campus and gave an inspirational speech to Vanderbilt students and faculty, middle school students, and their families. If you missed her talk, you truly missed a motivational conversation.

Thomas spoke very plainly about her inspiration for the novel The Hate U Give and the controversy that surrounded it. However, what struck me as surprising was how closely Thomas’s own life paralleled the life of the main character, Starr. Thomas grew up in a predominantly Black area of Mississippi, so when she attended a predominantly white institution (PWI) for college, she found herself having to completely alter her personality in order to “fit in” with her peers. Starr also faced this same issue in the novel. Thomas changed the way she spoke, the clothes she wore, and the music she listened to on campus to not draw additional attention to herself.

This portion of Thomas’s talk struck me as interesting. For many Black Vanderbilt students, including myself, change how we speak and act in order to be deemed “smart,” “safe,” or “unproblematic” by our white peers. Thomas addressed this issue directly, but she emphasized how important it is for us to not lose sight of ourselves regardless of our surroundings. In addition, she mentioned a phrase that her mom drilled into her, which was “Know your worth.” She encouraged every single Black college student to never let anyone else on campus let us feel small or less than our worth, which is something we truly need to remember during our college years and throughout the current state of the nation. She also said multiple times to “find beauty in difficult situations” on campus and our personal lives.

Lastly, Thomas discussed how important it is to let your voice be heard. She was afraid to write the original short story of The Hate U Give, and now it is a successful novel and a major motion picture. Her book has touched so many lives in only two years, so thinking about the impact that each one of us on Vanderbilt’s campus can have on the world from simply one of our countless ideas is incredible. So, remember the final phrase that Thomas stated, “If you change the world around you, then you will find yourself changing the world.”

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