Ten weeks have passed since Khalil’s death. Carlos hosts a barbeque for Memorial Day at his house that also serves as a joint birthday/graduation party for Seven, who has just turned eighteen and finished high school. Maverick cried when he saw his son get a diploma. The atmosphere is joyous, as the kids play in the pool and the adults dance to old-school hip hop music. Kenya flirts with DeVante, who happily says that Carlos and Pam have agreed to let him live there for his senior year of high school. He has even bonded with Nana over their shared love of the card game spades.
Maverick’s tears at Seven’s graduation underscore the importance of education as a means to improve one’s life. Though Maverick fell into the same life of crime as his own father, Seven has broken the cycle. By bonding with Nana and the rest of Carlos’s family, DeVante has also defied expectations. He, too, will continue his education in an effort to break out of the cycle of poverty and crime.
When Maya and Chris arrive, Starr feels her Garden Heights and Williamson worlds colliding, and worries about acting too “black” or too “white” for either group. Things are slightly tense at first as the two groups greet each other. Chris and DeVante slap palms. Kenya introduces herself to Chris and then compliments Maya on her sneakers; Maya jokes about never running in them, and she and Kenya laugh. When Kenya asks where “blondie”—a.k.a. Hailey—is, Maya excitedly launches into the story of Starr’s fight. Kenya eats the story up, and agrees when Maya says, “minorities have to stick together.” Much to Starr’s relief, everyone is getting along.
This moment represents the inevitable meeting of Starr’s competing identities, despite her efforts throughout the novel to keep them separate. The group bonds in large part due to their shared love for Starr. As she watches her friends all get along, the double consciousness that has ruled much of her experience finally quiets for a while. Starr is able to stop worrying so much about how others perceive her and simply be herself.
Starr is eating in the kitchen when a call comes through from the security guard of Carlos’s gated complex: Iesha is at the gate. She did not attend Seven’s graduation, and was not invited to the party. Seven walks to the gate, followed by Starr, her parents, and Kenya. Seven greets his grandmother and little sister Lyric. Iesha, wearing a tight pink dress, angrily confronts Seven about not inviting her and scolds Kenya for keeping her brother’s party a secret. Starr is grateful again that Lisa, and not Iesha, is her mother.
Iesha remains a source of tension and shame for Seven, and her arrival disrupts the happy atmosphere of the party. Iesha appears distinctly out of place in Carlos’s posh neighborhood. She is a reminder that even as they celebrate a new chapter in Seven’s life, he has not yet escaped Garden Heights.
Seven explodes with hurt and rage, telling Iesha he is so ashamed of her that he has never even told his Williamson friends that Lisa is not his real mother. He confronts her about never showing up to things, putting him out of the house, and for always choosing King over her son—even when King hits her. His voice cracks as he tells Iesha that all he “ever did is love” her, and she couldn’t even love him back. Iesha is hurt, angry, and embarrassed, and turns to leave. She asks Maverick if he’s happy for turning her son against her, and says she can’t wait for King to get back at them all; he has had it out for them ever since Starr snitched.
Starr is apparently not the only one who has worked to keep her Garden Heights and Williamson worlds separate. Despite feeling as though he must protect his mother and sisters, Seven is still a young man who deeply resents Iesha for not taking care of him in return. Yet Iesha’s angry warning makes it sink in for Starr that she is in real danger because of King.
Back in the house, Seven is sobbing uncontrollably. Lisa comforts him, and Maverick instructs Kenya and Starr to go back outside. Starr realizes how awkward it is to be sitting with Kenya, whose father wants to kill her. Kenya apologizes on behalf of Iesha, saying she wishes she would leave King. Starr sympathizes, saying Iesha might be too afraid—just like Starr was too afraid to speak up until Kenya called her out for her cowardice. Though they bond over this fact, Kenya says they should go back to her brother. When Starr corrects her by saying “our brother,” Kenya walks away without responding.
Kenya complicates Iesha’s rudeness, pointing out that she, like everyone else in Garden Heights, has often done what she has to in order to survive. The real villain, Starr suggests, is King, who controls Iesha like he does the rest of the neighborhood. Kenya’s continued refusal to say “our” brother suggests she still feels threatened by Seven’s relationship with Starr.