That evening, protests erupt in Khalil’s name throughout Garden Heights. Maverick spends the night at his store to protect it from rioters and instructs his family to stay indoors. Starr compares her neighborhood to a “war zone.” Upon hearing the sound of machine gunfire Lisa instructs the children to move to the den, where there are no windows.
The riots reflect Tupac’s definition of Thug Life, as people’s anger over racist violence sometimes leads them to destroy even their own community. Maverick guarding his store then foreshadows its destruction later in the novel.
The family turns on the television to watch coverage of the protests, which have grown violent; police are tear-gassing protestors, cars have been set on fire, and people are running and screaming through the streets. The police appear on screen and say they have no reason to arrest One-Fifteen. To Starr’s anger, the news makes it sound as though “it’s Khalil’s fault he died,” alleging there was a gun in the car and calling Khalil a drug dealer and gang banger. Starr is not sure what to believe, but knows that regardless, Khalil did not deserve to die.
The media and police continue to attack Khalil’s character to rationalize his death and defend the police. Starr recognizes that society is being unfair by focusing on this one small part of Khalil’s identity, and that his background should not be relevant regardless—only the immediate events of his death should be. She understands the quickness with which society dismisses the value of black life.
That night, Starr has a vivid nightmare about Natasha’s death. The next morning Seven bangs on her bedroom door, reminding her that it’s the day of their monthly basketball game. Starr yells out to her parents that they’re leaving, and the two head to Rose Park—a large park filled with rusting playground equipment, broken beer bottles, trash, and cigarette butts. Still, the park holds sentimental value for Starr, who played there with Khalil and Natasha.
Seven clearly cares for his sister, and their recurrent basketball game reflects the closeness and supportive nature of their relationship. Rose Park is like a microcosm of Garden Heights, representing how children are forced to play and grow amidst a background of violence and neglect that follows them throughout their adult lives.
Starr and Seven play basketball, but then two young teens in the colors of the Garden Disciples approach. They ask Seven if he is “kinging”—that is, part of their rival gang—and even though he says he is neutral, the teens demand he and Starr hand over their things. DeVante, a King Lord around Starr’s age sitting nearby, intervenes. He asserts that Rose Park is King territory and pulls up his shirt to reveal the gun in his waistband. The Garden Disciples leave.
The fact that the two Garden Disciples are so young reveals how strong the pull of gang culture is in Garden Heights, and how deeply it shapes the lives of all who live there. Ironically, the person who saves Seven and Starr from the Garden Disciples is another gang member, reflecting the cycle of crime in the community.
Starr initially thinks DeVante is cute, until he calls her “li’l mamma”; Starr hates nicknames. Seven introduces them and Starr realizes this is the same DeVante Kenya fought over at Big D’s party. Seven tells DeVante he’s sorry about his brother, Dalvin.
DeVante’s arrogance is immediately tempered by the mention of his brother, complicating the image of him as just another gangbanger.
Maverick pulls up to the basketball court, furious that Starr and Seven left the house without telling him or Lisa. He rants as he drives them home, pointing out the danger of going to play ball when the neighborhood is so dangerous that the National Guard has arrived. Back home, Lisa is equally angry. She demands Starr and Seven hand over their cellphones, and says they are all going to Carlos’s house.
Garden Heights can be so dangerous that Starr and Seven aren’t even supposed to go out to play basketball without notifying their parents. The National Guard’s arrival adds to the feeling of being in a war zone.
Later that day, Starr watches Maverick examine his roses, which are looking dry despite his frequent watering. Lisa drives Starr to Carlos’s house. On the way, they see protestors marching for Khalil, and Lisa can sense her daughter’s feelings of guilt. Lisa tells Starr that Starr was not breathing when she was born; though Lisa had tried to do everything right throughout her pregnancy, this moment made her feel as though she had done something terribly wrong. A nurse grabbed Lisa’s hand and said even when doing the right thing, things can turn out wrong; “the key is to never stop doing right.”
Maverick’s roses represent the Carters; the flowers’ dryness in this moment reflects how Starr and her family are struggling to thrive in Garden Heights in the wake of Khalil’s death. Lisa’s story reassures Starr that she—and Khalil—did nothing wrong, and that Starr must continue to fight for justice even when the complications and frustrations of the world keep getting in her way.
They arrive at Carlos’s house, which is in a gated community close to where Chris lives. Starr notices how peaceful and safe everything is there, with joggers and kids playing in the streets. Nana, Lisa’s mother, greets them and immediately begins to complain about how Carlos’s wife Pam has started baking rather than frying her fish. Chris shows up at the front door unannounced, wanting to check on Starr following the riots and also demanding to know why she has been ignoring him. Starr angrily blurts out that he simply cannot understand what is going on with her because he is white. Chris insists he doesn’t care about their differences, and asks Starr to help him understand. Starr decides she has missed him too much and he is her “normal,” and they reconcile. She still cannot bring herself to tell him she is the witness in Khalil’s case.
The calm and security of Carlos’s predominantly white neighborhood is presented in stark contrast to Garden Heights, which is rapidly becoming more and more like a war zone. Nana’s complaints provide some comic relief, while Chris’s arrival shows his concern for and commitment to Starr. Nevertheless, Starr is not yet able to open up to him, and continues to present a calculated version of her life to avoid his pity and judgment.