Uncle Carlos drives Starr, Lisa, and Maverick to the courthouse. Their car is followed by two cars of Cedar Grove King Lords. Starr remembers going to the courthouse for Maverick’s sentencing when she was three years old. She told Maverick that she liked his jumpsuit because orange was her favorite color, and Maverick told her she should never wear a jumpsuit like that. Since then, she hates the courthouse. Reporters line up across the street. People pray for justice on the courthouse lawn.
Ms. Ofrah greets Starr with a hug. Lisa tells Starr how brave she is. Starr insists that she’s not brave, but Lisa says that being scared and doing something anyhow is brave. Maverick hugs them both. With the support and love of her family, Starr finally feels ready to face the grand jury.
Starr enters the courtroom and swears on the Bible to tell the truth. Privately, she promises Khalil to tell the truth, too. When the District Attorney asks Starr to confirm that she knows that she is not the focus of criminal charges, Starr says yes, but internally comments that she and Khalil have been on trial since the murder. The DA asks if Starr is ready to tell the grand jury what happened. Starr feels terrified and wants to hide, but refuses to let the people praying, her parents, or Khalil down. She announces that she is ready.
Analysis: Chapters 18-19
Maverick’s changed attitude toward moving means that he has reconciled his love of his family and his Black Power philosophy. Significantly, he says protecting his family is the “realest” thing he can do, using the same phrasing he used to talk about living in Garden Heights, which signifies that he sees the move as being in line with his ideals, not compromising them. For one thing, Brook Falls has more black people living there than Uncle Carlos’s suburbs, which means that their family will not have to assimilate into the customs of an entirely white neighborhood. In addition, with King’s threat, Maverick has fully understood the danger his children face in Garden Heights. Because his children are as central to his worldview as the Black Power philosophers, Maverick deciding to move for them follows his ideals instead of compromising them. Finally, we can read this choice as a shift in Maverick’s definition of authentic blackness. Instead of believing that authenticity comes from where he lives, Maverick decides that his actions—keeping the store going and protecting his children—make him real.
Maverick and Lisa’s insistence that Seven go to a four-year college highlights the difference a responsible parent makes in a teen’s life. Just like DeVante and Khalil, Seven often finds himself forced into a parenting role because Iesha does not take on the responsibility of keeping her children safe. Seven’s idea of going to community college instead of the prestigious schools that offered him scholarships follows a similar (though less drastic) path as DeVante and Khalil in that Seven considers making a rash decision that could diminish his opportunities. Fortunately for Seven, Maverick and Lisa provide a support network that keeps him from shouldering this burden. Maverick’s reminder that Seven’s role, even when dealing with Iesha, is that of a child and not an adult encourages Seven to prioritize his own future, and distinguishes his relational support from that received by his Garden Heights peers.
The ambiguity of whether the police or the King Lords attacked the Carter house emphasizes that both groups benefit from Starr’s silence and the Thug Life cycle. The police do not want Starr to testify because her testimony holds One-Fifteen accountable for his actions, and therefore holds law enforcement accountable for the murderous consequences of their racism. Indicting One-Fifteen would force them to examine uncomfortable truths about their role in Garden Heights and take responsibility. King wants to profit off his hold on the drug dealings in the community. Starr not testifying keeps him out of jail and stops her from chipping away at a system that both helps King financially and forces young men to do the most dangerous parts of drug dealing for him. Therefore, which of these forces attacked the Carter house almost doesn’t matter because they both stand against Starr and her mission of justice.
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