Northwest Students Visit Angie Thomas – Author of “The Hate U Give”


Mr. Hallaert

Mr. Narva and the rest of the students that came to the author visit on December 8th.

Mr. Hallaert

On Thursday, December 8th, Mr. Narva and I took a group of students to see Angie Thomas, the author of The Hate U Give, at the Holland Performing Arts center here in Omaha.


Angie Thomas told us she was born in Mississippi on September 20th, 1988. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Belhaven University, and she’s been writing books since her college professor told her she should turn her short stories into novels.

She opened her talk by telling the crowd she’s “allergic to cold weather.” When she got off the plane, her first words were: “Oh my god, what have I done?”

So far, Angie has written three bestsellers, but if you ever talked to her mom, you’d never believe she was a bestselling author. The last conversation she had with her mom after she landed in Omaha was about how messy her room is.

Next, she made a statement about how most kids since they were very young were told they could be anything. She was the snarky kind of kid who would say “What if I want to be a frog?” She mentioned that once a child hears this enough it starts to lose its meaning. When we’re older we often realize that the world is so big and so messed up.

Time in Mississippi, and Angie’s Experience

She mentioned that Mississippi is known for a lot of bad things, but that people often joke that they don’t wear shoes and that they don’t have electricity. They do in fact have both, she told us, and they have a lot of big buildings with plenty of lights. She also gave a shoutout to as an organization that is helping to try and bring fresh water to the state. That fresh water problem is just another example of the socioeconomic inequality happening in the state, as it’s happening in mostly black and minority neighborhoods and cities.

Angie Thomas grew up in the same neighborhood that fathered Medgar Evers, she said to us, and her house was so close to his house that her mom heard the gunshots that happened there.

She then reminded the crowd and the kids about Emmett Till and told of her first experience seeing him. She saw him in Jet Magazine at 6-years-old, smiling happily. Then, the next page of the magazine had his bloodied and beaten face. When Angie asked her mom “What’s this?” her mom replied, “No baby, who is this?”

Thomas was never that worried about KKK like some others may have been, at least not in her neighborhood. She told us she was more worried about “food, and drugs, and other things that seemed more real.” She then explained that rappers were the only people she’d ever heard that were talking publicly about what was going on in neighborhoods like hers.

Tupac Shikar

That is when she discovered Tupac Shakur. He was one of the most influential people that she ever listened to. She said 2Pac was a “walking contradiction.” She saw herself and felt loved from his song Keep Ya Head Up, but in the same breath he’d trash women in public or in his songs.

She then focused on telling us about one of Tupac’s poems, The Rose That Grew from Concrete. She said, “That poem was about me, and that poem is probably about a lot of you too. You don’t have to be from poverty to be growing from concrete…” Everyone is growing through their own adversity, she continued, “You are a rose, no matter what you’re dealing with or what concrete you’re growing out of. You have so much beauty and strength, and if nobody is telling you that, I’m telling you that.”

Angie’s Time in College

The next piece of her talk was about her time in college. She said it was a lot of firsts for her. She didn’t even know if it was okay to be herself at the school she went to because it was so predominantly white. She had to focus on code switching, she didn’t use slang, didn’t listen to certain kinds of music, and felt like she had to be careful how she spoke and dressed. She mentions that it led to a lot of silence because she didn’t want people thinking that she was being the “ghetto black girl.”

She had an acquaintance who she based the character Hailey off of in The Hate U Give. This real-life Hailey made Angie feel super uncomfortable in many situations. For example, Angie and her classmates were at a professor’s holiday party doing a gag-gift exchange. Angie randomly picked a package that contained a “drug dealer starter kit”, which was prescription pill bottles and a water fun. The real-life Hailey then blurted out, “Oh my god! The black girl from the hood got the drug dealer starter kit!”  Angie was so mad, but she didn’t say anything at the time. She just left, and in her car, she blared Tupac’s Hit ‘Em Up. She told us all that during this moment she was madder at herself for not speaking up.

The Hate U Give

During these same years of college, her professors told her she should turn her stories into novels. She was inspired by the tragic deaths of black folks around the nation and channeled her empathy for them into art, eventually creating The Hate U Give.

When it comes to the book itself, The Hate U Give has been banned in all kinds of districts and schools across the country at one time or another. Angie told us during her speech that she’s not angry because of the banning, but angry for all those kids that come up and see themselves in Star, and how they might miss that opportunity for representation. “People should be more shocked at the 300 black folks killed at the hands of police brutality than the 87 F-bombs in the book.”

Closing Remarks

Her next call to action was to everyone, not just the students. She told us, “I’m not here to tell you that you have to be an artist to make yourself heard, but you must use your voice.” She mentioned that the past 2 years have revealed a lot of unfortunate truths about our country and our society. “Despite what society has told us, there is strength in feeling emotions and there is strength in feeling things.” The one emotion that outweighs all others is compassion, Angie said. Diverse books help us with compassion.

Lack of empathy is huge in our society. She reminded us how we are constantly drenched in imagery of black death, and then we grieve, and protest, and we “rinse the rag and repeat.”

“My hope is that you learn that we must not rinse the fabric, we must change the very fibers of it.”

Then, speaking directly to the kids in the crowd, she said, “Gen Z, you drive trends, language, and fashion.” She then asked them, “How do you change the world? You start by changing the world around you. We need to be willing to grow. Willing to change.”

“At the end of the day I believe that the power that every one of you have is far greater than the hate anyone else can give.”

Q&A from the Crowd

At the end of the talk, Angie opened up the floor to questions.

There were a couple groups of very brave students from surrounding Omaha districts that asked her questions on how to help their schools understand them better, and how to face an upcoming meeting with the security guards and administration at their school to voice their concerns.

Angie told them to talk to the administration and security guards “exactly like you’re talking to me.” She said that they should share the floor with each other and take the burden away from each other by having each student in the group bring up an individual point.

In all Angie’s visit was eye opening for myself, and I’m sure it was the same for many of the students and adults in the crowd around.

Here at Northwest, we are grateful for Angie’s time, and we appreciate all of the insights she brought to our school and city with her visit.