Daddy spends hours out here every night, planting, tilling, and talking. He claims a good garden needs good conversation.
Although Starr’s description of Maverick here is about his gardening, this quotation also characterizes Maverick as a father. Maverick is a very active and nurturing parent, devoting a significant amount of time and energy to his children. He takes an interest in their lives, as we see from the amount of detail he puts into the family prayers to Black Jesus. Just as he has conversations with his garden, he constantly has conversations with his children throughout the book, such as when he talks with Starr about THUG LIFE or Seven about going to university.
“It sho’ is obvious. First you take down his pictures—who the hell replaces a picture of Dr. King with some nobody—”
“Huey Newton ain’t a nobody.”
This conversation between Mr. Lewis and Maverick highlights Maverick’s ideological leanings. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. worked to change white systems through peaceful protest. Huey Newton, founder of the Black Panther movement, worked to create new systems within Black communities to nurture and defend them. By replacing a picture of Dr. King with Huey Newton, Maverick shows that he’s following the Black Panther model of Black liberation. His store, a place for the community to buy groceries, fundraise, or find jobs, is one of the ways Maverick helps create positive change in his community from within.
I see the fight in his eyes. I matter more to him than a movement. I’m his baby, and I’ll always be his baby, and if being silent means I’m safe, he’s all for it.
Starr, through her conversation with Maverick, has concluded that speaking out is one of the only ways to help break the cycle of THUG LIFE. Here, as she confirms her thought with Maverick, she notices him hesitate to agree with her. This moment illustrates Maverick’s internal struggle between his desire to raise children who are outspoken advocates for Black liberation while also keeping them safe. He ultimately agrees with Starr that breaking THUG LIFE means not being silent, encouraging Starr toward activism.
Then what? We just like all the other sellouts who leave and turn their backs on the neighborhood. We can change stuff around here, but instead we run? That’s what you wanna teach our kids?
Maverick truly believes that change for Garden Heights can only come from within. Therefore, to Maverick, moving away from the Garden would mean rejecting the center of what he considers authentic Blackness in their city in favor of assimilating into whiteness, like Uncle Carlos did. Worse, Maverick sees this move as teaching his children that Garden Heights is just a place to escape instead of a place to help care for. The importance Maverick places on staying in Garden Heights to help change it comes from the tenets of the Black Power movement and its focus on community care.
But I realize being real ain’t got anything to do with where you live. The realest thing I can do is protect my family, and that means leaving Garden Heights.
Maverick has learned to balance his Black Power ideology with his desire to be a protective father. Here, he shifts his focus from where he lives to his actions. He can still be active in the Garden Heights community while living in a different neighborhood. The other major reframing here ties to fatherhood. Maverick has always seen being an active father as central to his life philosophy. By understanding moving to a safer neighborhood as just another part of being a good father, Maverick can reconcile the move with his definition of authentic Blackness.