Campus News

Best-selling author Angie Thomas to headline Buffalo Humanities Festival

On the left: book cover graphic of best-selling novel, "The Hate U Give," and on the right: portrait of author Angie Thomas.

Angie Thomas, author of "The Hate U Give," headlines the 2018 Buffalo Humanities Festival.

By BERT GAMBINI

Published September 11, 2018

Portrait of UB professor David Castillo.
“Inspired by Black Lives Matter and the words of visionary hip-hop artist and activist Tupac Shakur, ‘The Hate U Give’ is an urgent call to all, but especially the youth of today, to use their most powerful weapon, their voice, against the plague of hate.”
David Castillo, director
UB Humanities Institute

Angie Thomas, author of the best-selling novel “The Hate U Give,” which has been adapted into a soon-to-be-released major motion picture, will be the keynote speaker at the 2018 Buffalo Humanities Festival.

The three-day annual event organized by UB’s Humanities Institute (HI), one of the most important entities supporting the humanities in Western New York, takes place Sept. 20-22 at various community locations.

The festival’s theme this year is revolutions, the second installment of a three-year sequence that began with the environment and continues next year with democracy. The Buffalo Humanities Festival is presented in partnership with Canisius College, Niagara University, SUNY Buffalo State and Humanities New York.

Thomas, a former teen rapper and inaugural winner of the We Need Diverse Books’ Walter Dean Myers Grant (2015), will deliver her address, “The Hate U Give: Finding your activism and turning the political into the personal,” at 8 p.m. Sept. 21 at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

General admission tickets for Thomas’ talks are $20 for the public and $15 for students. There is a separate VIP reception with Thomas in the AK Café. The VIP reception is included with the purchase of a VIP full festival pass, which is $60 for the public and $40 for students.

Tickets are available online. Download the festival program.

“Inspired by Black Lives Matter and the words of visionary hip-hop artist and activist Tupac Shakur, ‘The Hate U Give’ is an urgent call to all, but especially the youth of today, to use their most powerful weapon, their voice, against the plague of hate,” says David Castillo, HI director and professor of Romance languages and literatures.

Thomas’ debut novel about a 16-year-old girl who witnesses the police shooting of her unarmed friend revolves around the notion of truth within that particular tragedy. As the novel develops, touching on issues of racism and police violence, the main character, Starr Carter, finds herself further torn between the opposing worlds of her disadvantaged neighborhood and the suburban prep school she attends.

“The circumstances described in the novel distill our own reality in a peculiar world that allows us to question motivation, truth, appearances, racial coding and expectations, and how they affect our view of reality,” says Castillo. “The book’s emphasis is on the power to resist and Carter’s voice is crucial. We have to develop voices consistent with a set a principles. Without providing spoilers, Carter demonstrates that her voice is her power.

“This is the revolution that Thomas signs off on, a variation of Tupac’s famous call to ‘follow your heart but take your brain (and your voice, Thomas adds) with you,’” he says.

There are many ways to interpret revolution and its related terms, according to Castillo.

As a noun in a traditional scientific sense, revolution allows HI to draw connections to the sciences, but there is also the figurative circularity of history.

“Awareness of a past moment in a circle might help us design, create and imagine the possibilities that allow us to attempt to get it right this time,” says Castillo. “History has to inform our decision-making or we’re condemned to repeat past mistakes.”

But revolution or, specifically, the verb revolve, can mean to repeatedly consider something from different angles: contemplate, study or speculate.

“These qualities are essential to being a humanist,” says Castillo. “This is what the humanities is all about and the festival is trying to create the conditions for this kind of review, reflecting on issues that are essential to our present.”

The three-day festival opens at 6 p.m. Sept. 20 with “Anti-Social Media: Digital Space and the Destabilization of Democracy,” presented by Humanities New York.

This conversation will explore how celebrated technologies such as Facebook and Google reinforce stereotypes and weaken democracy.

The day’s panel will consist of Safiya Umoja Noble, assistant professor at the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication and author of “Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism,” and Siva Vaidhyanathan, Robertson Professor in the Department of Media Studies at the University of Virginia and author of  “Anti-Social Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy.” Ulises Mejias, associate professor of communication studies at SUNY Oswego, will moderate the conversation.

The festival’s third and concluding day on Sept. 22 begins with a performance by Dan Hoyle of “BORDER PEOPLE” and continues with talks, panels and community conversations focusing on revolutions: examinations of past, present and future movements affecting social, political and cultural change.

Lunch is included with each festival pass. A reception featuring music by the Autonomous Vehicles and beer by Community Beer Works closes out the festival.