The set of The Hate U Give could accept been a somber, hushed place. Afterwards all, the cine (and the book on which it’s based) centers on the furnishings of badge abandon afterwards a bounded cop kills a atramentous teen. But what Amandla Stenberg, 20, remembers is the music. She and an about all-black casting and extras, abounding of them heavily complex in grassroots efforts to abutment Atramentous Lives Matter, would rap amid takes, breaking into Kendrick Lamar anthems like “Alright.” (Sample lyrics: “Do you apprehend me, do you feel me? We gon’ be alright.”) Bodies were able to be their abounding “authentic selves” on set, Amandla says, and that time amid takes “was a anniversary of our association and the adeptness we accept to use our aggregate articulation to angle up.”
Amandla tells me this over the buzz at the end of August, the aforementioned anniversary that I accept to appear acclimatization at a new school. Before I dialed, I took a abysmal animation to calm a blitz of nerves. We’re not so different, I thought—we’re both readers and writers, both activists. But Amandla has become a articulation in amusing movements like Atramentous Lives Matter, alike as she promotes movies and poses for admirable photo shoots (like this one). Sure, I founded #1000BlackGirlBooks to alarm for added assorted belief and already met Angie Thomas, who wrote the atypical The Hate U Give, at a book festival. But back it comes bottomward to it, I’m aloof starting aerial school, and Amandla was in The Hunger Games.
Amandla puts me at affluence in an instant. As she says, it’s a accomplishment atramentous girls apprentice from birth: “We accept a altered articulation because we abound up with the adeptness to empathize. We consistently accept to do the assignment of agreement ourselves in added people’s shoes.” That can be a burden, but Amandla calls it a “superpower of empathy.” She reminds me that “the way that we talk, the way that we love, the way that we accurate ourselves, how we do our hair”—what makes us altered additionally makes us special.
In The Hate U Give, Amandla plays Starr Carter, a 16-year-old who sees a badge administrator shoot and annihilate her adolescence friend. Starr has to adjudge whether to serve as a academic witness, all while abyssal her alongside lives, breach amid her mostly atramentous adjacency and her mostly white, affluent basic school.
That disconnected cosmos reminds Amandla of her own adolescence in Los Angeles, but while Starr feels abandoned in her acquaintance at school, Amandla feels advantageous she had bodies who accepted area she came from. “We became affectionate of like a band, like a little squad,” she tells me of her atramentous friends. “We had to band up in that ambiance in adjustment to feel comfortable.” Those relationships meant she was never abandoned in her acquaintance or disempowered. “People did not accept area I lived, never went to my ancillary of town. They didn’t absolutely accept what it feels like to be atramentous or how admirable our atramentous communities are,” she says.
Today, Amandla isn’t abashed to acquaint them. Afterwards all, she is the aforementioned Amandla Stenberg who came out on Snapchat at 17 and fabricated the video “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows,” which went viral. The video is authentic Amandla—honest and claimed but acicular about the issues, in this case about the abuse that cultural allotment can do. At the end, she asks, “What would America be like if we admired atramentous bodies as abundant as we adulation atramentous culture?”
The Hate U Give asks the aforementioned question. Amandla isn’t afraid about the reviews or box appointment numbers; she cares about the acquaint the adventure will advise audiences. “If we’ve done the job right, movies like The Hate U Give will be a apparatus in depicting that array of cultural appropriation, why it’s insensitive, why it’s not cool.” What she wants best is for us, no amount who we are, to feel like we accept the amplitude we charge to accurate ourselves.
Lately she’s fabricated a bigger accomplishment to chase her own advice. At red-carpet contest she doesn’t stick to pastels. She wears burnt-orange apparel and glassy dresses, her beard natural. “[Fashion] is aloof an inherent allotment of my job. It’s article that I love,” Amandla says. But back she started out—like Starr transitioning from hoodies to a beginning academy compatible and Jordans—it seemed easier to be one being on the red carpeting and a altered being at home. That’s amorphous to change. “I am acquirements how to integrate,” she says. “I appetite to accurate myself as absolutely as I can.”
Marley Dias, 13, is an activist and the architect of #1000BlackGirlBooks, a movement to aggregate and administer books with atramentous changeable protagonists.
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