Hosted by UT’s Campus Events Board (CEB), author Angie Thomas spoke to students over Zoom on March 9 about racial justice and the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as her writing process and career experience.
Best known for her 2017 novel and its film adaptation, “The Hate U Give,” Angie Thomas has also released two other books, “On the Come Up” and “Concrete Rose.”
Thomas first began the conversation around 2020 as a whole, focusing on the division in the country and the ways in which America has changed during the course of the pandemic.
“Poverty is basically a death sentence, and the division between us is larger than a canyon. … Racial injustice is a cycle throughout history,” Thomas said.
Thomas spoke about the spark of the civil rights movement, Emmett Till and his death at the hands of racists in Mississippi, relating those historical moments to last year, and the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
“My hope is that we learn a lesson from 2020; we must not rinse the fabric of this country anymore, we must change the fibers of it,” Thomas said.
“True change comes from discomfort, and sometimes those uncomfortable acts come from ourselves.”
Thomas spoke about allyship to the Black community and her wish for what she calls “co-conspirators.”
“Don’t just support this fight on the sidelines, join in, because that is true unity,” Thomas said.
The conversation opened up, and Thomas spoke about the power of the internet and the media, especially in her own experiences in Jackson, Mississippi, where there have been water shortages recently and where Thomas used her own social media to call those issues to national attention.
Then, the moderated portion of the conversation began, and participants were invited to ask Thomas questions — moderated by Seth Caldwell on behalf of CEB.
During this portion, Thomas spoke about her mom as a major inspiration and expressed the importance of using lived experiences along with creative liberties to create her characters.
“I put bits and pieces of me in them,” Thomas said.
Inspired by Thomas’ conversations on the film set of “The Hate U Give,” she began to write “Concrete Rose” as the prequel, and she talked about the success of Amandla Stenberg’s portrayal of the main character, Starr.
Kertesha Riley, a career coach at UT, asked Thomas a question about her experiences as a writer.
“Can you speak to your writing process?” Riley said.
In answering this question, Thomas spoke about thinking about a character’s story as a sort of outline that she has in her mind, which she envisions as a path that is fluid, also discussing the many drafts that she works on.
“The biggest part of writing is revising,” Thomas said.
In this part of the conversation, Thomas discussed privilege, white feminism, colorism in Hollywood and, finally, cancel culture.
“I think that too often, this mob mentality comes about, and the thought of accountability gets lost in that … we want people to be held accountable, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it can get tricky,” Thomas said.
Thomas is currently working on a project called “Blackout” in collaboration with other writers, which comes out in June, as well as the film adaptation of “On the Come Up.”