Are you tired yet? I admit that I am. Tired of turning on the news each day to hear more bad news. Tired of carefully plotting trips to the grocery store or pick-up times for carryout meals so that I strategically encounter as few fellow humans as possible. Tired of wondering when this season of semi-isolation and racial unrest and economic uncertainty will ease.
Yet, what if…just what if this season has come to make us weary? To shake us up? To help us long for and actually create a new normal – a better world borne from the ashes of all that wasn’t working?
What if this darkness is the precursor to a brighter light and a better way – one that we can’t even imagine because it’s so powerfully positive? What if we do our part, in this present moment, individually and collectively, scared or brave, to make this so?
I humbly offer up my part, through the calling I’ve embraced since my elementary school days – my writing. For I know, that I know, that I know that there is beauty and hope and transformation available in and through the written and spoken word.
As you ponder your next steps and how you can somehow make this pandemic-laden season better for yourself and others, I invite you to bathe yourself in words that help you heal, cling to hope, find some measure of happiness and strengthen your heart.
I invite you to consume the words offered up here – in a few videos I recently recorded, in a recent blog post and in my on-sale book offerings (worthy reads or re-reads this summer). I also encourage you to explore and enjoy the many other options available from my fellow scribes. Challenge yourself to read at least two books this summer by authors who are new to you and whose work may not only entertain you, but also expand you in some way.
May what I share in this space be the start (or continuation) of your efforts to practice self-care and protect your spirit. You’ll need to do more and more of that during these uncertain times, and you should do so with gratitude and without guilt.
We might enter this world alone, but we don’t live in it, and certainly can’t love in it, on an island. To get to your island, you may have to walk through my forest or cross her river or climb his hill. So keeping my forest fire-free, and her river waters clean, and his hill easy to navigate helps you safely reach your island – and enjoy the journey there all the more. 🤷🏽♀️ We are connected, and we must remember that.
This image, posted online by an unknown source, featuring this anonymous quote, inspired me:
From my perspective, these are timely words for this Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. For years after Dr. King’s service and sacrifice, there is still the need to do what he lived and died to ensure: the snuffing out of hate; more people following the Golden Rule; everyone looking beyond race and ethnicity into one another’s eyes and hearts to see (and experience) mutual humanity.
So I challenge myself – and you – to care enough to do a little more, to be a little better, to…
Do what it takes to create a life and not just live.
Keep seeking the good in others;
growing into a stronger, kinder, wiser you,
and giving from the purest, most selfless place in your heart.
For when you persistently seek, grow, give and live with hope, resilience and integrity, your courage and optimism will inevitably overflow and touch the people and the world around you.
Angie Thomas’ love of Hip Hop fueled her passion for storytelling, and just like the rappers she admires have sought to perfect their art form, she has sought – and succeeded – at doing the same.
Her debut novel is her evidence, and when the movie version of the book hits the big screen in October 2018, her desire to give voice and humanity to a sector of Americans who often feel they have neither is expected to reach fever pitch.
Thomas is the bestselling author of the award-winning New York Times bestselling young adult novel The Hate U Give. In addition to reaching the No. 1 spot on the New York Times list, the book is being sold in more than 40 nations, and Thomas has traveled the globe to expound upon its themes, including the narrative that Black Lives Matter and that every child deserves to be heard and valued.
In late July 2018, several hundred residents of metro Richmond, Virginia – including teens, librarians, book club members, readers and writers of all backgrounds and ages, and me – converged on the Chesterfield County Public Library‘s North Courthouse Branch to see Thomas and hear wit, wisdom and words of encouragement pour from her lips.
Time seemed to stand still during her 90-minute talk as she mesmerized the audience with the story – her story – of being a 6-year-old girl reading Jet magazine (which she called that era’s “Facebook for black people”) in her home and stumbling upon the picture of Emmett Till in his casket – an image her mother took time to explain in depth, leaving Thomas with the message to “know your worth, but know that not everyone values you the way I do, simply because of the color of your skin.”
She also shared her memory of being an 8-year-old enjoying the swing set in her not-so-safe neighborhood park when she heard Hip Hop lyrics for the first time, in the verses of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s The Message, which described the very reality of her hard-knock life. Then, there was her pivotal memory of seeing the late Tupac Shakurfor the first time, in news coverage that cast him as a rebellious yet intelligent rapper. Soon after, she heard his music and his commentary, including the explanation for his THUG LIFE tattoo: The Hate U Give Little Infants F—s Everybody. “Meaning (that) what society gives us as youth, bites (society) when we wild out,” Thomas explained during her talk.
While acknowledging the downsides of Hip Hop – its often controversial and profanity-laden lyrics and many verses that disparage females – Thomas still gave a nod to the musical genre for waking up generations of people who often feel invisible, forgotten and frustrated, and helping them (including her) find their voice.
Throughout her childhood in Jackson, Mississippi, she heard stories of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, who was assassinated in his own front yard, not far from where she lived; and in 2015, as the reality of Florida teen Trayvon Martin‘s killer being acquitted of murder stunned her spirit, so did her desire to become a social justice warrior.
Rather than pick up the weapons she so despised for their role in harming people of color, she decided to model the rappers she had long revered and use her words as her sword. The Hate U Give was born as a short story for a college senior project, then grew into the novel we know today.
Thomas’ captive Chesterfield County library audience thanked her for her willingness to write a story that scared her; and one Caucasian middle school student asked for advice on how she could encourage her friends and classmates to read the book and try to understand kids who differ from them in some way.
Thomas told her to keep being herself – a brave “book recommender” – and serving as an ambassador for what it looks like to be accepting of others.
It’s a path that Thomas is determined to continue walking, with each new story she births and each new audience she introduces to her personal experience of being a little girl who had everything going against her until she heard herself reflected in lyrics (musical storytelling) that legitimatized her existence.
Because she believes “books can change the world,” Thomas intends to be that light for a whole new generation of young minds – whether they read her novels, watch her movie, hear her speak or encounter others who have been transformed by the messages in her words.
Her library talk was an invitation to everyone in the audience to individually and collectively become literary citizens who create meaningful paths to knowledge, understanding and connectedness.