What does ‘woke’ mean? The dictionary definition and where it came from
When did you last hear the word “woke”?
Did you read it in a mud-slinging match on Twitter, in a column in a national newspaper, or overhear someone passing the woke baton
around in a bar or a cafe?
People throw the word “woke” around a lot without really understanding it’s meaning or what it means to be “woke” or “stay woke”. The
term “woke” is meant to signify a shift in social awareness.
Thanks to the fight of activists such as Black Lives Matter, society is starting to recognise that not everyone is a straight, white, middle-
class male born with privilege, and lives in a world that works in their favour.
But with a word like “woke”, what exactly does using it mean? And is it more appropriate for some people to use the term than others?
Where did the term woke come from?
“Woke” is a political term of black origin which refers to a perceived awareness of issues concerning social justice and racial justice.
Outside of its use in popular culture, “woke” has been in use in African American culture since the 1900s.
Derived from the African American Vernacular English, or AAVE expression “stay woke”, the term stems from the racial and social
injustices African American people have experienced in the US.
“Woke” was said to come into popular vernacular with Erykah Badu’s 2008 song Master Teacher.
“Even if yo baby ain’t got no money/To support ya baby, you/(I stay woke)/Even when the preacher tell you some lies/And cheatin on ya
mama, you stay woke/(I stay woke)/Even though you go through struggle and strife.
To keep a healthy life, I stay woke/(I stay woke)/Everybody knows a black or a white there’s creatures in every shape and size,” sings Badu
in the song.
Following the death of Trayvon Martin – an unarmed 17-year-old who was fatally shot by neighbourhood watch volunteer George
Zimmerman in February 2012 – the Black Lives Matter movement has been linked to the rising popularity of the word “woke”.
In 2015 the phrase was referenced again by Afro-Futurism duo OSHUN’s track Stay Woke.
You Celebrating 6