Lisa and Starr spend the night at Carlos’s to avoid the riots, but protests continue to fill the streets when they drive home the next morning. Starr is terrified when they have to pass throughout a police checkpoint, and grips the door handle. They make it through without issue, but Starr does not let go of the handle until they get home.
Starr’s continued trauma is evidenced by her fear of police even in a mundane situation, She now knows from experience that a black person does not have to be doing anything wrong to be targeted by the cops.
Back at their house, Maverick asks Starr to hang out with him that day, promising her ice cream and the chance to watch Harry Potter. Starr relays her father’s theory that the Hogwarts houses are really just gangs; they wear the same colors, never snitch on each other, and some (the Death Eaters, at least) even have matching tattoos.
By comparing gangs to a fantasy book, Maverick’s theory makes fierce disputes between groups like the King Lords and Garden Disciples seem all the more arbitrary and ridiculous.
Starr gets into the car with Maverick, who plays Tupac as he drives. Starr lightheartedly mocks him for showing his age, but Maverick insists Tupac cared about uplifting black people. Starr tells Maverick what Khalil told her about Tupac’s definition of Thug Life. Maverick asks what Starr thinks Tupac meant, and she replies those at the “bottom of society” “get the short end of the stick,” and are also feared the most by society.
Hip hop is once again presented as an important tool for education and empowerment. Starr’s understanding of “Thug Life” has grown, as she can now connect Tupac’s words to her own neighborhood’s struggles with police brutality.
Maverick continues to push Starr to explain how drugs, racism, and a lack of opportunity trap communities like Garden Heights in a cycle of poverty and crime. He says that people become drug dealers because they need money and “don’t have a lot of other ways to get it.” He connects this to the lack of proper education in minority communities, drug industries, and a justice system that disproportionately punishes black people.
Maverick’s speech effectively captures the thesis of the novel—that the entire economic and justice system is primed to keep black people entrenched in the issues that tear communities like Garden Heights apart. It follows that only by remaking the system can black people thrive.
After listening to her father’s words, Starr realizes that the protests and anger in her community are much bigger than Khalil. She decides that she cannot be silent if she wants the system of oppression to change, stating “my silence isn’t helping Us.”
By connecting Khalil’s death to a larger tapestry of racism and violence, Starr finally understands her community’s anger and feels empowered to speak up.
When Maverick and Starr arrive back at the store they find DeVante. It becomes clear that he is trying to hide from someone; he finally admits he is trying to hide from King because King wants him to “handle”—kill—the people who killed his brother Dalvin. Starr realizes that the gunshots she heard at Big D’s party were the same that killed DeVante’s brother. DeVante wants advice from Maverick on getting out of the gang, since Maverick got out years earlier.
DeVante’s story represents the impossible situations black youths often find themselves in. His brother’s death is yet another example of the effects of gun violence on life in Garden Heights. The novel refuses to gloss over the moment of gang violence at Big D’s party, instead asserting that the victim, regardless of gang affiliation, was someone whose life mattered.
Maverick says that his father was the “biggest drug dealer” Garden Heights had ever seen, effectively making Maverick a King from birth. Maverick had to “king” since childhood as a way to survive; people would have it out for him because of his father, but as a King Lord people would have his back. Once he had children, he decided the gang was not worth it anymore. He took a drug charge for King and went to prison for three years. There he reconnected with his father, who told him how much he regretted missing time with his own children. In exchange for protecting King, the latter let Maverick leave the gang.
Maverick’s story is an explicit manifestation of the cycle of crime, as he was literally born into a gang and had to go to prison to leave it. He asserts that family is a community worth more than any gang. The reasons behind Maverick’s prison sentence also make him appear more sympathetic, and make King seem all the more selfish, calculating, and cruel.
Maverick agrees to help DeVante get free of King, and says he can start by working in the store. While showing him how to put price stickers on items, DeVante opens up to Starr about feeling helpless as he watched Dalvin die—a feeling Starr knows all too well. Maverick allows DeVante to stay with the Carters that night. Later Starr overhears her parents fighting, Lisa angry with Maverick for putting the family in danger by bringing DeVante home, and more broadly for insisting they continue to live in Garden Heights. She says has made her choice and will do what she needs to do for her children.
Maverick helping DeVante reiterates his commitment to the Garden Heights community. DeVante’s tough posturing crumbles as he tells Starr about his brother’s death, complicating any dismissal of him as just another gangbanger and instead presenting him as what he is: a kid trying his best to make his way in the world. Lisa knows things will only get worse for the Carters if they remain in such a toxic environment.