“The Hate U Give” Author Keynotes Brockport Diversity Conference
Angie Thomas capped a full day of activity and discussion around inclusive excellence.
The Hate U Give will hit the big screen this fall. But before it does, its creator spoke at SUNY Brockport.
Author Angie Thomas, the author of the No. 1 New York Times bestseller, served as the keynote for the 18th annual Brockport Diversity Conference September 20. The novel’s main character, 16-year-old Starr Carter navigates between her poverty stricken neighborhood and the elite suburban prep school she attends. Her life is up-ended when she is the sole witness to a police officer shooting her best friend, who turns out to have been unarmed during the confrontation — but may or may not have been a drug dealer.
The Hate U Give was required reading for incoming freshmen this summer as part of the Academic Planning Seminar’s Summer Reading Program.
Thomas told the audience in Brockport’s Special Events Recreation Center that her inspiration for the book was the death of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old African American who was shot and killed by a police officer on New Years Day 2009. Thomas was a college student at the time and was outraged that some of her classmates felt Grant may have deserved it.
“I wasn’t sure how to make my classmates understand. I had two options,” Thomas said. “A) I could burn down the entire school. B) I could do something productive. I started to write.”
Thomas penned a short story. A professor encouraged her to turn it into a novel. But it took more deaths of a similar nature occurring before she was finally inspired to do it.
“I decided to write The Hate U Give because I was angry and frustrated and hurt,” Thomas said. “This book has created a lot of conversations, and I’m so honored that it has created conversations on your campus. Thank you.”
Other sessions during the day-long conference included: Addressing Power, Privilege, and Difference; Gender Equality Across Continents; Navigating Racial Discord on College Campuses, and Dyslexia: A Beautiful Brain.
The conference also featured showcases for student organizations and artistic performances, a study abroad fair, and an international dessert sampling. Its theme was “Building a Strategic Roadmap for Inclusive Excellence,” which emphasizes the actions of respect, compassion, and open-mindedness to create a stronger and more positive learning, working, and living environment for the Brockport community.
“This conference is an important part of our campus culture,” said Brockport President Heidi Macpherson. “And an important part of our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion.”