Tanks rumble through Garden Heights. A curfew has been implemented, and Maverick is home with the family. Everyone feels safer with him around, and the mood is lighter in the Carter home. Maverick tends to his roses, which he fears are dying. He and Lisa have made up, and Maverick watches his wife as she works on the computer. Starr assumes she’s on Facebook updating her out-of-town relatives, but wonders how she could post positive news without mentioning everything that has been happening. Maverick asks Starr to get her old laptop to give to DeVante for school.
Maverick’s roses once again represent the Carter family, as they struggle to survive the increasingly dangerous environment of Garden Heights. Maverick remains committed to helping DeVante and emphasizes the importance of his continued education in helping him to rise above his current situation.
Back in her bedroom, Starr checks on the new Tumblr blog she has started called The Khalil I Know. It includes photographs and stories about Khalil that contradict and complicate the image the media is painting of him. She sends the Tumblr link to Kenya. Though this isn’t speaking up on the news, Starr feels that she is still doing something for her friend. Soon, hundreds of people have liked her photos and begin posting their own memories of Khalil. Someone posts a video of Tupac explaining “Thug Life,” and Starr finally feels like she fully understands what it really means.
Starr’s Tumblr is her first major step towards speaking up for Khalil. The photos she posts reflect the difference between the way she viewed Khalil and the narrative the media has superimposed on his life. This is also another appearance of Tupac’s explanation of the cycle of racism, poverty, and crime. The fact that a stranger posted the video reveals how much his words continue to resonate, reasserting the power of language and hip hop to educate and inspire.
Starr brings her old laptop to Seven’s room, where he and DeVante are playing video games. She notices the Slytherin blanket on Seven’s bed and notes that they all wanted to be Slytherins when they were little because they associated the Harry Potter house with being rich—which, when you are living in the projects, she says, is “the best thing anybody can be.” Starr also notices the black trash bag of clothes next to Seven’s bed, and Seven tells her that King moved back in with Iesha and officially kicked him out of the house. Starr tries to comfort Seven, but he insists he is okay.
Slytherins are typically the villains of the Harry Potter novels, but Starr asserts that it’s all a matter of perspective; those who have experienced true poverty like hers know that money signifies an escape from a world without security or opportunity. This scene also reveals the growing tension between Seven, his mother, and King.
Starr hears Lisa speaking in her “other” voice on the phone. She is speaking to the District Attorney about Starr coming in to talk. Maverick does not like the idea, but Starr thinks it will help Khalil, and agrees to do it.
Lisa, like Starr, code switches depending on who she is talking to. Speaking to the DA is another way Starr can use her voice to help Khalil.
The next morning Kenya finally texts Starr back about the Tumblr, saying simply “its aight.” Starr is happy, knowing this is a compliment coming from Kenya. She wonders if Kenya took a long time to respond because she was dealing with the fallout of King, who beats her and her sister in addition to Iesha, moving back into her house. Starr knows Kenya won’t open up about that, but tells Kenya she will be there for her if she needs her.
King terrorizes not just the neighborhood, but his own family. Kenya’s approval of Starr feels like a tacit stamp of acceptance from the world of Garden Heights, and Starr now appears more committed to the relationships she has within the community.
Lisa take Starr to the Just Us for Justice office, which occupies an old Taco Bell. Maverick used to take Seven and Starr there right after he got out of prison and did not have much money; he often had to go to the cash advance building next door, which was the first indication to a young Starr that necessities do not simply “show up” but must be paid for by someone.
Taco Bell, despite being a cheap fast food joint, nevertheless holds sentimental value for Starr and represents Maverick’s efforts to reform himself and take care of his family. This scene also suggests the struggles people face when they first leave prison.
The office is empty of people but filled with posters of Huey Newton, Malcolm X, and other Black Panthers. Ms. Ofrah says her colleagues are out leading discussions and protests on the street where Khalil was murdered. Starr is taken aback by how easily Ms. Ofrah uses the word “murder” to describe Khalil’s death. Maverick arrives late, explaining that he had to get DeVante situated at the shop to watch over Mr. Lewis, fearing King’s retaliation for Mr. Lewis’s snitching in his TV interview.
Huey Newton and Malcolm X were both famous activists in the Black Panther party who fought for black liberation and an end to police brutality. Starr’s surprise upon hearing Ms. Ofrah use the word “murder” reflects how desensitized she and much of society have become to the killing of black people—and how the police are assumed to be exempt from accusations of criminal behavior like this.
Ms. Ofrah calls Starr brave for speaking to the police, though Starr does not believe it about herself. Ms. Ofrah then explains that if the District Attorney wants to talk with Starr, it means they are preparing to take Khalil’s case to a grand jury, where Starr will have to testify. Starr fears she will not be able to answer certain questions, such whether there was a gun in the car. Ms. Ofrah reveals that the “gun” the media has been mentioning was nothing more than Khalil’s hairbrush. In the darkness, the handle looked thick enough—and, Maverick adds, Khalil was black enough—that One-Fifteen allegedly mistook it for a weapon. Starr is horrified that Khalil died over such a meaningless thing.
As she learns more facts, Starr is further outraged by the senselessness of Khalil’s death. One-Fifteen was so blinded by racist assumptions about the criminality of black youth that he saw a weapon where there was none. Later the public, too, latches onto the hairbrush as a symbol of both Khalil’s innocence and the power of hate to twist the most harmless object into a lethal weapon.
Ms. Ofrah tells Starr that One-Fifteen’s father will be giving a television interview on his son’s behalf. Realizing the whole world will get to hear One-Fifteen’s side of the story, Starr grows determined to tell Khalil’s. Starr tells Ms. Ofrah about seeing her other friend get murdered—a word she now does not hesitate to say—as a child, and says that no one was ever caught. People did not seem to think Natasha mattered enough. Starr wants the world to know that she did matter, and that “Khalil mattered too.” Emboldened, Starr agrees to do a television interview so long as they obscure her identity.
Starr’s words in this moment directly echo the name of the modern protest movement Black Lives Matter, created in response to police brutality against black communities. The use of the word “matter” reflects the lack of attention paid to the deaths of black individuals and the need to focus on justice specifically for people of color. The violence of Natasha’s death is similar to Khalil’s, and together they push Starr to become a more vocal activist.
Maverick then gets a phone call from a frantic DeVante about something the others don’t hear, and says they are on their way.
The chapter ends on a note of suspense, as the family fears something has happened to Mr. Lewis, left behind at the store with DeVante and in danger of being targeted by King.