On winning the Amnesty CILIP Honour 2018 for The Hate U Give

Speech by Angie Thomas, 18 June 2018

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© Valerie Schmidt

"Like many of you, I am tired. I don’t mean physical exhaustion, although I do have my fair share of that since I stayed up well past midnight in order to work on my second book. I think every author in this room can related that kind of exhaustion that comes with a deadline.
 
But you see, as a young, black woman, the exhaustion I’m speaking of goes beyond physical. It is emotional, it is mental.  You see, I am tired of talking about racism.
 
I am tired of black bodies being devalued and discarded. I am tired of racism being explained away. I am tired of political leaders who dehumanize those who are not like them. I’m tired of injustice. I’m tired of inequality. I’m tired of demanding diversity in an industry where it should be a given if books are to truly reflect the world. I’m tired of this rampant idea that if publishing acquires a book by someone like me, it was only done so they could fill in a box on their diversity check list. So yeah. I’m tired. But I’m hopeful.
 
As someone who comes from a country that is currently ripping children from their mothers’ arms and throwing them into what are essentially concentration camps, I somehow have hope.
My hope is not in those who call themselves leaders. My hope is in those who do not realize they are leaders. My hope is in you. It’s in the young people I meet both in America and here who not only want to change things but are taking steps to change things.
 
It’s in those students in Parkland and those young black people who, for years, have spoken up against gun violence. It’s in a 13-year-old girl by the name of Marley Dias who didn’t see enough books about black girls and decided to make herself heard. It’s in 18-year-old Amika George, from right here in London, who is using her voice to speak out against period poverty. It’s in Olivia Francis-Cornibert and Shiden Tekle, also from London, who recreated Hollywood posters using black actors to show just how much of a diversity problem we actually have.
 
These young people give me hope that far outweighs my exhaustion. And they’ve proven something that children’s literature has shown us for decades: anyone can be a hero. Yes, even you.
 
I hope that every single person in this room understands their significance in the fight against injustice. It may seem like a huge task that’s impossible to tackle. But remember this: there was once a young man, born by the name of Michael King, who simply loved to sing in the church choir. He went on to become Martin, and his dream changed the world as we know it.
 
You have the chance to be the hero of this narrative, and you don’t need a wand or any sort of superpowers to be that hero. You simply need to care. You need to care about this world beyond yourself and care enough to fight the good fight.
 
The only way we will ever rid our society of racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and so many other isms, is to acknowledge they exist in the first place and to recognize them around us. Once we do, we must work to get rid of them. And by doing that, we will change the world.
 
So my challenge to you is to acknowledge these things, recognize them, and care so much that it angers you, frustrates you, and exhausts you. By doing so, maybe one day there will be another Angie Thomas on this stage, and maybe she will not be as tired as I am.
 
To the Amnesty committee, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for this tremendous honor. I am humbled to receive an award that holds so much meaning and honored that my story, with its 2Pac and its curse words, is worthy of this recognition. Again, thank you.
 
I would also like to thank my publisher, Walker Books. Especially my editor, Annalie Grainger, and my publicist, Rosi Crawley, who champion for this book and for me with their whole hearts. I can never thank you enough. Your love and support make this far-away place feel like home.
 
To Emma Draude and everyone at ED Public Relations, thank you for doing so much to ensure that my words got into as many hands as possible. There’s a chance I may owe you my first born.
 
To my UK agent, Molly Kerr Hawn, who possibly makes people tremble in fear on my behalf. You are an angel if there ever was one and I am grateful to have you in my corner.
 
And to every single one of you – thank you for listening, and by faith, I thank you for making a difference. Our future truly depends on you."

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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