By Jamelle Fortune-Turner, Restorative Practices in Communities Case Manager
In the beginning of October, I participated in a community read-in on the book “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas in preparation for the screening of the upcoming film adaptation directed by George Tillman. The purpose of the read-in was to cultivate community healing and dialogue around issues both the book and film voice about police brutality and other forms of oppression that low-income African-American communities face. The book is about a youth named Starr, played by Amandla Steinberg, growing up in two worlds. Starr attends a predominately wealthy and white school while living in a predominantly Black low-income neighborhood. The story is centered on her finding her voice after witnessing the loss of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer.
“The Hate U Give” is a coming of age story for both youth and adults. It challenges folks to think about topics that some people face every day while others have the privilege not to. Community members were able to have a youth-led dialogue around selected passages from the book. It was beautiful to see the ways in which youth were able to see Starr within themselves. They were excited to see a young woman who chose to use her voice and agency to stand up against bias, bigotry and racism.
It is important to have books and films that represent what our society looks like today to understand and reimagine where it can go in the future. Being from South Central Los Angeles and having the opportunity to work within my community is important to me. Being able to divert youth out of the juvenile justice system allows youth to become Starr or whatever positive person they want to be by giving them another chance. We must allow folks on the margin to amplify their voices while also providing them alternatives for healing and conflict. I believe in the voices of the youth that I serve and I see Starr within them all.