Event Recap: On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
Some book events are a simple opportunity to share a love of a specific author’s books and then there are experiences. Seeing Angie Thomas was an experience. If you’ve had the pleasure of seeing her, I am sure you know. If not, I captured our local event for On the Come Up, which felt very intimate with over 1,000 people in the audience! Check it out below.
The event opens as Samuel Getachew shares a poem of the history of violence against African-Americans in Oakland. He’s followed by Leila Mottley, 2018 Oakland Poet Laureate, with her love letter to Oakland. Beautiful performances to set the tone of the evening. They’re 15 and 16 respectively and I’m ready to see what their long futures will entail.
It’s also Toni Morrison’s birthday.
Angie is joined on stage by MK Asante. In the tone of inspiration, MK asks Angie about her inspiration – she’s inspired by young people who embody the characters in the story. They’re real people walking around every day. Society says they’re stories aren’t enough. “I want those kids to see themselves. I want other kids to see them so they can be the heroes. Let’s get away from narrow minded narrative that only white men can save the world.”
The characters in Angie’s books jump off the page and Bri is no different. Bri is hip hop. Her story is parallel to the story of hip hop. Bri begins her journey rapping after the events in The Hate You Give – both books are set in the same universe. Bri wants to be heard even when it makes others uncomfortable. She has many roles to fulfill and her journey is to learn to define herself despite all the definitions the world tries to put on her. Her drive is to lower her mom’s struggle. Contribute to her family. Honor her dad after he died in street violence.
As to where Angie drew her character from, Angie spoke of wanting to be a rapper at 18 and shared photos of young rapper Angie. She wasn’t seeing doctors and attorneys as her future to inspire to – it was the rappers. Unlike Bree, Angie says she was sensitive so a future in rapping was not for her.
On her setting, Angie purposely doesn’t list a city or state because every place has a similar community. On the Come Up explores what’s the neighborhood like and what’s it like for young kids after violence in their community. “After the cameras leave, no one cares. How do kids navigate the world after?” She also wanted to shut down harmful stereotypes that African-American girls are all the same and everyone knows everyone. “You can have two girls from the same neighborhood who don’t know each other or be like each other. Break stereotypes – black girls are not all the same.”
Her final advice to the youth (and all of us!) today – “Make some noise. Forget everyone’s comfort.”