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What We Really Mean When We Say “Woke”

What We Really Mean When We Say “Woke”
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What the general public now knows as woke, was once referred to as “conscious,” and it’s existed in the collective black psyche for a very long time. The term and the system of survival it was created in is new only to interlopers. There were “conscious” rappers, “conscious” poets, the “conscious” black person — see Ankh and African necklaces, dashikis and a chosen vegan lifestyle as popular “conscious” archetypes.

Erykah Badu is probably the most mainstream example of a conscious black person. In her requiem, A.D. 2000, written for Amadou Diallo, a Guinean immigrant who was extrajudicially executed by NYPD in 1999, Badu sings “This world done changed/Since I’ve been conscious.” Eight years later, Badu expands on her journey to consciousness in Master Teacher, singing “I stay woke,” in reference to the innocence of her daughter who will eventually come to her own awakening of the world; the actual ignorance of religious zealots and extremists; the distractions of romantic love and material things. Badu is ever vigilant, as we should be. 

#StayWoke is a call for vigilance at modern history’s height of horror—after the continual murders of unarmed black people and public stoking of overt racism, we are reminding each other of our reality: this country—our home—is still a hostile and dangerous place to navigate.

“The way they treat our experience as novelty is really irritating. Nobody considers what it is to be a black person living in this body … Every day, we have to fix ourselves to be jubilant because you don’t know what we have to survive, literally,” Harris explains. “There is no way to police who uses the content that is created during conversations, especially on social media platforms like Twitter, but white folks and non-black people of color alike, would do good to actively listen to what is being said instead of listening for the purpose of pilfering the creative speech of black people to seem ‘cool’ or ‘relevant’ or ‘hip.’”





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African American Vernacular English | Morgan Gill | TEDxYouth@RMSST

African American Vernacular English | Morgan Gill | TEDxYouth@RMSST

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