Angie Thomas, author of the New York Times best-selling novel “The Hate U Give,” spoke to students Thursday about race, activ-ism and social change in the U.S.

Thomas was born and raised in Mississippi. She discussed growing up poor in Jackson, hearing about hate crimes against the Black community and knowing that some people would not value her because of the color of her skin.

Thomas discussed her time at Belhaven University, constantly feeling like she had to be someone else when she was there.

“When you’re trying to make others comfortable, you start to get uncomfortable,” she said. She said she felt powerless and unable to use her voice to speak up for herself and her community.

Thomas said inspiration for the novel came from rappers who were talking about the problems the city of Jackson faced when it seemed like no one else was. Thomas said that hip-hop was her introduction to art as activism.

“Rappers told the story I saw myself in,” she said. “They made me feel seen and heard and inspired me to use my voice.” Tupac Amaru Shakur was her biggest inspiration as he changed the way she saw her community and her role in her community.

His famous poem, “The Rose That Grew from Concrete,” about finding beauty and inner strength in diffi cult circumstances, made her see the value of her opinions and her voice.

The book title (T)he (H)ate (U) (G)ive is an acronym for the word “thug,” inspired by Tupac. The killing of Oscar Grant in Oakland also sparked a desire to write the novel.

These sources of inspiration sparked “The Hate U Give,” a story about a 16-year-old girl named Starr who is the sole witness when her friend is shot by a cop. Thomas used her voice to “create art as a means to cry out” about what is happening for young Black people in our society.

“I think that people should read this book,” says Lauren Ancheril, a College of Arts and Sciences freshman. “It opened my eyes to the harsh realities of this country, I think that it could do this for a lot of other people, to give them a different perspective than they have already.”

Thomas emphasizes the power we hold as young people to make real change. “You drive trends, election and control the tech industry,” she said. “The power you have, is far more powerful than the hate anybody can give.” 

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