When Amandla Stenberg was preparing for her role in the movie adaptation of Angie Thomas’ YA novel “The Hate U Give,” she compared the book to her own diary. Having grown up in an American black neighbourhood and having attended a mostly white school, she could instantly identify with her character in the film adaptation.

As noted by Just Jared, Stenberg looked stunning, wearing a striking black gown on the red carpet in London as she arrived at the film's premiere on Saturday 20 October at the 2018 BFI London Film Festival with the film’s director, George Tillman

‘The Hate U Give’ novel and film adaptation

Amandla Stenberg sounds like she was the perfect actress for her role as Starr Carter in “The Hate U Give.” Stenberg told NPR that she “devoured” the novel, but said it became a strange and spiritual thing as she felt like she was reading her own diary.

Stenberg explained that like Carter, she had grown up in a predominantly black neighbourhood, but the school she attended was predominantly white. At the age of 10, Amandla started attending the school, which was right across town, adding that she was one of only four black girls in her grade. She said she had a “parallel experience” with her character in the film.

Stenberg went on to say that she had become familiar with being isolated in her ethnicity, finding it difficult to fully be herself.

She said she wanted to fit into the culture, which was privileged and white, so she had to learn to adapt to this alternative environment.

Stenberg explained that Starr Carter, her character in the film also had to learn a code to fit in, something like flipping a switch in her brain when surrounded by her classmates. However, the character is proud of her background.

Amandla said her character “loves her blackness.”

Black person shot by white police officer

Thomas, the author of the novel, told NPR that the fatal shooting of a young African-American man, Oscar Grant, in Oakland, California, by a white transit officer in 2009 had inspired her to write the novel. Thomas noted that while Grant had been unarmed when shot, the media had focused more on his criminal record than how he was shot and “unjustly lost his life.”

In the film, a white police officer pulls Starr and a childhood friend Khalil over, mistaking a hairbrush for a weapon the officer shoots 17-year-old Khalil dead.

This led to Starr being the only witness to her friend’s killing and she wants the officer to be charged for what he did but is scared to speak out about the incident.

While she is afraid to come forward, Starr’s father had taught his children to stand up and be heard. Following the Black Panther’s Ten-Point programme he had raised them to help end police brutality and the murder of black people by police by working for justice.

Stenberg said that the black culture is beautiful, in that they give their children power when naming them. She explained that the name “Amandla” means “power” in the South African languages Xhosa and Zulu. She said her mother intentionally gave her that name, as they recognise that the world out there is tough, so they give children particular names to use as “superpowers.”

That particular notion is mentioned in the title of the original novel and the film. The name “The Hate U Give” is part of the lyrics of Tupac Shakur’s song “Thug Life.” According to Amandla, the love people give is more powerful than the hate.