#StayWoke: Not Just a Hashtag… It’s a Movement

“Some of us woke while some stay snoozed.”

These are the words of rapper Joey BadA$$ from his song off of his new album All-Amerikkkan Bada$$, entitled “Good Morning Amerikkka”, which covers many controversial topics.

There is a lot of truth in what Joey BadA$$ states in the song, and quite honestly, the truth is…if you are not ‘woke’, then you are asleep. At least that’s what the modern-day millennial would describe anyone who they consider not to be ‘woke’ as.

Thanks to social media, the term ‘woke’ has been embraced as a new defining label for the state of higher consciousness.

According to Dictionary.com, ‘woke’ is the past tense of ‘wake’, which by definition means that you are no longer in the process of waking up. In other words, you have made it to the state of full consciousness.

Going even further, the Urban Dictionary defines ‘woke’ as “being aware” and “knowing what’s going on in the community.” Now, there’s nothing new about using slang words as a form of description, but it seems like the term ‘woke’, as in ‘stay woke’, has sparked an entire movement, and rightfully so.

The expectation of being ‘woke’ is determined by how in-tune you are with the unfiltered reality that systematically oppresses people in the land of the free.

The ‘stay woke’ phrase became widely popular after it surfaced on social media as the #BlackLivesMatter movement became more active and engaged following the murders of Trayvon Martin in 2013 and Michael Brown in 2014.

#StayWoke is usually linked to social and/or political posts online to remind people to ‘wake up’ if they happen to be unmoved or unbothered during times of social injustice.

This proves to be a problem when people seem to completely ignore the significant realities of what is happening to Black people, especially Black males, across this country.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2016, Black males are nearly three times as likely to be killed by police action than White males, while Hispanic males are more than one-and-a-half times as likely to fall victim. This study exposes the obvious difference between Black male survival and White male survival at the hands of law enforcement officers.

In the report, the author of the study, James Buehler, M.D., explains that his study results reflect the entire sequence of events that might result in a legal intervention death; starting with whether a person is stopped or arrested by police and going through whether police are likely to use lethal force and whether a person survives it.

“My study is a reminder that there are, indeed, substantial disparities in the rates of legal-intervention deaths, and that ongoing attention to the underlying reasons for this disparity is warranted,” said Buehler.

More attention is being brought to what being ‘woke’ in this country looks like.

In 2016, BET premiered a documentary film entitled “Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement,” starring actor and activist Jesse Williams. The documentary explores the birth of the Black Lives Matter Movement, and throughout the documentary, Williams encourages the public to become more aware about the social injustices in America and about the poor treatment of Black people in this country.

#StayWoke has not only created a space for personal expression, it has also allowed many people to increase their awareness about the unfair treatment of Black lives in America. Many people went from simply trying to convince others that America had an unjust system, to actually having the evidence and proof necessary to show that America has an unjust system that needs to be addressed.

It is quite common to come across online debates about the various levels of consciousness, almost as if it’s a competition to see who is more ‘woke’ or not ‘woke’ enough.

Filmmaker and activist, Bree Newsome, believes the idea of a competition derails the purpose of being ‘woke’.

“Consciousness is a humbling position to be in because you are aware of how much knowledge there is to seek, you realize how much you didn’t know,” said Newsome. “Regardless of whatever criticism that folks may have, I don’t think you can deny that the national conversation has changed.”

‘Woke’ has evolved from a past tense dictionary definition to a trophy term of enlightenment. There are T-shirts, songs, and iconic statements that have derived, that remind us all to do one thing – ‘stay woke’.

But how does one stay ‘woke’?

The first step to change is awareness. Like most nations, America is not perfect, and the only way to correct the corruption, is to awaken from your slumber. Just like there’s a process to pass the state of being ‘awake’, it takes a process to reach the state of being ‘woke’.

Whether it’s a Twitter discussion about the current happenings and events, or whether it’s reading a book and researching online, there is always more to learn whereby you can become enlightened and remain ‘woke’.

#StayWoke is not just a hashtag, it’s a movement. The national conversation surrounding these issues of injustice will forever remind us that we have work to do and we must challenge everyone in this country to ‘wake up’ and ‘stay woke’.