Hip-Hop as News, Mirror and Narrative Art: An Evening with Angie Thomas

Hip-Hop as News, Mirror and Narrative Art: An Evening with Angie Thomas

This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of meeting #1 New York Times best-selling author Angie Thomas. In addition to her book signing, she gave an in-depth look into how and why she wrote her first novel “The Hate U Give.”

She shone a light on why hip-hop had such a profound impact on her growing up. It appealed to the rebel in her and idolized what she heard and saw on TV. She spoke about it giving a voice to the voiceless and even rapped a few bars from classics such as “The Message” and recited poetry from the late great Tupac Shakur.

What I loved most besides actually getting to meet her was her passion: lifting hip-hop up without completely letting it off the hook, giving us a personal roadmap to writing and publishing her book, and most touching for me was watching how she lit up answering the teens’ questions during the Q &A. I could feel how much she wanted them to hear her and how much she believes in them.

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You can’t fake that kind of passion–not that well. I related to her when she spoke about being a Black girl in predominantly White spaces and the anger that is felt when microaggressions are hurled your way. I was all too familiar with her story of not standing up for herself when she should have. One of the best pieces of advice she gave was not everyone deserves your energy. You try to show them the way. If they learn the lesson, great. If not, move on.

It was a reminder I needed. I shed a couple of tears during her presentation. I could feel her bravery and how much she actually cares about the equality of ALL people. There was so much solidarity in the room as she spoke about justice.

Listening to her made me feel like my Black life matters. She was a voice I could hear. And one I hope to be reading and listening to for a  long time to come.

 

 

She’s Still Here

She’s Still Here

On Saturday, I was back at Afro-Caribbean dance class. It had been a few weeks because of holiday, cancellations, illness, etc. I was ecstatic to join the group of smiling faces for the last class of 2017. Towards the end of every class, our instructor has us gather in a circle. Some people get out in the middle of the circle and dance while the rest of us clap and cheer them on.

One of the fabulous dancers settled next to me at one point during this time. We were both smiling and clapping at this gorgeous little girl who couldn’t stop herself from throwing herself in the middle and jumping around with her parents. Nothing but pure joy. The woman next to me leaned in and said “We all have a little girl inside of us just like her.”

And that’s when it hit me. I have learned not sit on the sidelines with my writing in 2017 but the woman who used to embrace the center of the dance floor has not made an appearance in a long time. Anyone who really knows me remembers that I may not have always been the first person on the dance floor but I was certainly never the last. If I was feeling the music, that was it. All she wrote. I don’t know if it’s my island roots (Ayiti!) or the fact that my family was never shy about burning up the dance floor when I was younger. Til this day, watching dancers makes me tear up. The type of dance has never mattered to me-belly, ballet, modern, African, jazz, hip-hop. The fluidity, the sharp and precise movements and the grace of the dancer has always spoken to me.

Anyway, after she leaned back and the music continued to pulsate throughout the circle, I found myself drawn, not all the way to the center but away from the sidelines and let the beat find me.

And even if only for a few moments, the little girl inside of me made an appearance.