What does “THUG LIFE” mean?

“THUG LIFE” is an acronym coined by the rapper Tupac Shakur that stands for “The hate u give little infants f---s everyone.” Both Khalil and Maverick cite this acronym as descriptive of the no-win system Black neighborhoods find themselves in. Society gives hate to Black neighborhoods through structural racism, not investing in these communities, and not allowing for education and other routes out of poverty. This neglect causes these children to turn to crime and other destructive routes to survive, which in turn limits their opportunities. The result is a cycle of racialized poverty. 

What happens to Khalil?

While leaving Big D’s party, Khalil and Starr are pulled over by a police officer, One-Fifteen. During the stop, Khalil shows his frustration that the stop appears to be a racially motivated show, and One-Fifteen escalates the situation by forcing Khalil and Starr out of the car. After One-Fifteen pats him down, Khalil opens his car door to check on Starr, who is on the other side of the car. In response, One-Fifteen shoots him, claiming he thought Khalil was about to draw a gun. 

Who is Natasha?

Natasha is one of Starr’s childhood best friends. As kids, Starr, Natasha, and Khalil are inseparable, calling themselves “The Hood Trio” after the three protagonists of Harry Potter. When they are ten years old, Starr and Natasha get caught in the crossfire of a gang-related shoot out while playing in the spray of a broken fire hydrant. Starr falls into a rosebush, but Natasha is hit by a stray bullet. The police never find out who killed Natasha, which makes Starr feel like they consider gang violence so inevitable in Garden Heights that Natasha’s death was not even worth investigating.

Why did Maverick go to jail?

Maverick used to be a member of the King Lords and sold drugs with King. When he and King get caught by police, Maverick lies and claims that the weapon found in the car is his so that King does not get a third strike on his record and a potential life sentence. After the three years he spends in jail, Maverick realizes that he’s missing out on his children’s lives. He decides to use taking the fall for King as leverage to get out of the King Lords and dedicate his life to his family. 

Why does Lisa want to move out of Garden Heights?

Lisa wants to move the family out of Garden Heights because she wants safety and stability for her children. If Sekani wants to ride his bike outside, he has to go to Uncle Carlos’s neighborhood for his own safety. Starr has lost her two childhood best friends to gun violence, and Seven must deal with many of his peers joining gangs. Lisa worries about the toll this violence, death, and fear takes on her children’s mental and physical wellbeing.

Why does Uncle Carlos go on leave?

Uncle Carlos is placed on leave as punishment for punching One-Fifteen while at work. Although Uncle Carlos initially defends One-Fifteen’s actions as possibly self-defensive, once Starr reveals that One-Fifteen held her at gunpoint, Uncle Carlos sees the incident in a different light. He knows Starr poses no threat to anyone, which reminds him that Khalil was just a teenager, like Starr, and that no police officer should shoot someone just for opening a car door. 

Why has Lisa never liked Hailey?

Lisa doesn’t like Hailey because Hailey has always made Starr hide her own opinions and go along with Hailey’s plans. When Hailey, Starr, and Maya want to start a band, Starr initially wants to play guitar, but she settles for drums because Hailey wants to be the guitarist and center of the band. Starr even pretends to like a different Jonas brother for Hailey’s sake. Lisa doesn’t like the pattern of Starr sidelining herself so that Hailey is always in the spotlight.

Why does Seven want to go to the local community college?

Seven wants to go to the local community college because he’s worried about the well-being of his younger sisters, Kenya and Lyric. Seven’s mother, Iesha, is in a relationship with King, who is physically abusive. Because Seven knows Iesha doesn’t protect Kenya or Lyric from King’s anger, he believes that he needs to take responsibility for his sisters’ well-being in Iesha’s stead. He hopes that by staying in Garden Heights he’ll be able to protect Kenya and Lyric even if it means sacrificing the opportunities of a more prestigious school.

Why is King interested in Starr’s testimony?

King is concerned about the possibility that Starr’s testimony will reveal evidence of his drug dealings to police. Before his death, Khalil sold drugs to help pay off his mother’s debt to King. Because the police are investigating Khalil’s life for evidence that he could have posed a threat to One-Fifteen, they are very interested in learning about Khalil’s drug dealing. If Starr reveals the truth of why Khalil had been dealing drugs during her testimony, it will portray Khalil in a heroic light but will implicate King.

What does DeVante reveal about Khalil?

DeVante reveals that Khalil never joined the King Lords and even turned down King’s invitation. Instead, Khalil sold drugs independently to try and pay off his mother’s debt to King. The King Lords showed up at Khalil’s funeral with a bandana to disguise the fact that Khalil turned them down, which is a blow on their pride. Starr is ashamed by DeVante’s revelation because she truly believed Khalil had joined the King Lords and hates that she believed that of him.