Six years ago, the world fell in love Amandla Stenberg as the beloved Black character from the mega-hit movie, Hunger Games. Though she played Rue convincingly, as he beloved friend of the movie’s lead Katniss, she received backlash from ignorant white viewers that hated her brown face being cast in the role. She received a lot of attention, but many believed that kind of note made it difficult to be cast in other projects. It seemed that Stenberg could never find a project that would take her to the next level in her artistry.
Sure, she became a media darling. Teen Vogue Regular. Prom Date To Jaden Smith. LGBT Activist. Black Girls Rock Awardee. Comic Book Creator. Fashionista. Film Director and Producer. And she did pop up in other dope projects. But as an actor, she has not had the role that pushed her gifts past her celebrity.
That is until The Hate U Give…
In this role as Starr, a girl who lives in an Atlanta hood but goes to school in the suburbs, Stenberg sheds the cloak of stardom and gets gritty. Her portrayal is honest and shows the complexity that is unique for a particular segment of Black people. In the 1903 book, Souls of Black Folk (and earlier in his article featured in The Atlantic 1897 “Strivings of the Negro People”), W.E.B. Dubois calls this reality, “double consciousness.” As a theoretical device, “double consciousness” breaks down the psycho-social schisms that Blacks experience while living in American society that allows them to exist one way in relationship with their own and another way in relationship with the larger white community. In The Hate U Give, Stenberg masterfully gives life to the character from the critically acclaimed book of the same name.
Perhaps her supporting cast, rich with Ebony gifted-ness, made her shine all that much more.
Russell Hornsby is a star. As Starr’s father, Maverick, he brought to the screen the beauty and truthfulness of redemption. A former gang member, every single time he popped up in a scene he tapped into something that was familiar (and Oscar-worthy). Regina Hall was glorious as somebody’s Black mother who was hard-pressed but was so because she wanted the best for her children at all costs. Dominique Fishback and Algee Smith were exquisite opposite Stenberg. Anthony Mackie, who is usually beloved in all of his superhero roles, was evil wrapped up in gang violence. Even Issa Rae’s role was moving.
One of the characters in the movie that supported Amandla’s growth was Tupac. The Hate U Give… gives the viewer the acronym T.H.U.G. and informed Amandla’s character’s growth. And hearing his defiant-youthful cry in the frustration EQ’d throughout the movie was refreshing. Just as refreshing as seeing a script that allowed this young queen to shine.
Moonlight moved America’s heart last year, The Hate U Give will do the same this year.