The term “woke” is being thrown around casually these days. There are times when the use of the word is warranted and other times when it is just used as fashionable rhetoric as a veneer to make you look socially aware. But if there is one actress who embodies the term, it’s Amandla Stenberg — but her advocacy and activism aren’t forced, precious or trendy. It’s quiet, effortlessly authentic, thoughtful and reflected in her work and her voice…which is very similar to her character in the 20th Century Fox movie The Hate U Give.
Many may remember Stenberg as the fan-favorite character Rue in The Hunger Games, but shortly after, she made a video titled “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows: A Crash Discourse in Black Culture” that broke down the meaning of cultural appropriation. It went viral and made many think twice about how white celebrities like Kendall Jenner, Madonna, Katy Perry, and Talyor Swift don cornrows, wear grills, and use hip-hop imagery in their “art.”
Since then, she has made choices in her career that speak volumes when it comes to social issues. She starred in The Darkest Minds, Everything, Everything, as well as the recent Where Hands Touch, directed by friend of the podcast Amma Asante.
In The Hate U Give, she plays Starr, a black teenager who code switches between her life in a predominantly black neighborhood to her life at a predominantly white and privileged private school. When she witnesses the death of her best friend at the hands of an officer, she has to find her voice. The George Tillman Jr.-directed pic based on the best selling Angie Thomas novel was written by the late Audrey Wells comes at a time when the country is divided and unfair treatment of people of color — specifically the black community — has been put in the spotlight.
Stenberg stopped by the New Hollywood Podcast to talk about her role in The Hate U Give, why we code-switch, how her peers were and continue to be a source of inspiration for her and her choice to come out. She also gives us an idea of her dream guests for a dinner party and she’d love to one day be in a musical.
Listen to the episode below.