After weeks of saving up for the Boys Club’s annual talent show, one of the few community gatherings which even rival gangs attend peacefully, Lafeyette and Pharoah head there on a Friday evening. Once in the gym, they find a place at the top of the bleachers where they can see the stage.
As is usually the case at Horner, the children’s enjoyment is the result of a decrease in violence—here, a single-day truce. Only in such circumstances can residents enjoy a few hours of peace and amusement.
Before the national anthem, the emcee asks the crowd if they love this country and the crowd yells a loud “no,” overwhelming Pharoah’s soft “yes.” As the show begins, alternating dance routines, singers, and humorous skits, the room becomes more and more crowded. Rickey buys Pharoah a hot dog, and the crowd later follows along as a rapper calls out the names of the local gangs, which emphasizes that they are respecting a truce.
The crowd’s hostility toward the United States reveals entrenched feelings of isolation and alienation, as they are convinced that the country does not respect and protect their lives in the way it should. Pharoah’s answer, by contrast, shows a more innocent, optimistic trust in the country—and, perhaps, in his life in general.
In the meantime, Lafeyette looks for Craig Davis but doesn’t find him anywhere. He goes to visit the young man a few days later in the building. Craig shows Lafeyette a rap entitled “Children of the Future” and asks him for his opinion, which makes Lafeyette feel proud and happy, as well as soothed by the positive energy that always seems to emanate from Craig. Craig invites Lafeyette to stop by his DJing session at the Boys Club in a few weeks.
Craig’s capacity to invest in his art and project himself into the future serve as inspiration for Lafeyette. With Craig, too, Lafeyette can be listened to and respected just as he is. This serves as an affirmation of Lafeyette’s worth, capable of giving him more self-confidence.
In February, Pharoah works hard every day after school to study words for the spelling bee. While his brother Timothy sometimes wants to see what he is doing, he usually tells Timothy to leave him alone because he is studying. Lafeyette sometimes helps Pharoah, giving him words to spell. At school, Pharoah also benefits from his partnership with Clarise, the star pupil in Ms. Barone’s class. Twice per week, they get to school half an hour early to practice for the spelling bee. Clarise always encourages Pharoah, even when he becomes frustrated by his stutter.
While his family can occasionally detract Pharoah from studying, it can also bring him the love and support he needs to build self-confidence. Family members such as Lafeyette, for example, are committed to actively helping Pharoah succeed. Unlike in the neighborhood, at school Pharoah can engage in a close friendship and partnership, knowing that Clarise is worthy of trust, and that she wants to see the both of them succeed.
Pharoah’s environment becomes particularly chaotic a few weeks before the spelling bee. A couple of weeks earlier, two acquaintances of the family have a violent fight in their apartment, and one of them shoots a pistol. The police arrives, and LaJoe screams in outrage at the neighbor who shot the pistol and has to be restrained to keep from banging onto his door. Overwhelmed by the constant activity and violence around her, Lelia Mae decides to move out. A few days later, LaShawn gives birth to her third child, DeShaun, which makes Lafeyette and Pharoah excited, but also worried about the impact the baby will have on the family’s finances.
What might have been a non-violent fight in another environment is here resolved through gun violence, which shows that violence does not only come from gang activity, but can truly arise in unpredictable moments. Meanwhile, the birth of LaShawn’s child is surprising, given her preexisting difficulties to take care of herself and her two children. Lafeyette and Pharoah’s awareness that this child might be a burden reveals their pragmatic attitude toward certain family issues and their knowledge of adult problems such as finances.
Despite these events, Pharoah remains extraordinarily focused on his work. Excited by the prospect of the spelling bee, he begins to have pleasant dreams. In one of them, he gets a job and is admired for his intelligence. The dream makes him feel that he might one day succeed in getting his mother out of the projects.
Despite the instability within his own family, Pharoah proves strong enough to trust in himself, having built the motivation and self-confidence necessary to have high ambitions and dream of a better life.