By Ashley Causey-Golden
“Woke”--a word that is usually associated with a hashtag has been used to remind us to stay aware of the current social climate. I was one of those individuals who saw “wokeness” as my personal responsibility to staying aware. I was following the hashtags, news articles, and Facebook posts. I gave my support where I could but I felt like staying aware was the only thing I could do while handling the emotion that comes with reading about hurt and tragedy again and again. However, Valencia Clay, a Baltimore public school teacher and activist, raised my level of consciousness about what it means to be woke in the Hey Girl. podcast led by Alex Elle. She peeled back the first layer of what it meant to be woke to reveal a more intentional practice of awareness. During her interview, Clay talked about how to make the work towards equity more inclusive and intersectional. For that process to be a reality, we first need to examine ourselves and deepen our knowledge about who we are.
Valencia, explained that becoming woke should be more than learning about another person’s culture or identity. Understanding the lived experience of cultures and identities that are different from your own are important and necessary steps to becoming an ally, but those are not the only essential pieces to becoming woke. Wokeness should originate from an inner connection about who you are and how your being functions in tandem with others. For some of us, we get why we should be aware of the current social climate as well as the need to hear about the lived experiences of others, but what does that mean? How are we turning awareness into action? This is an important question to ask because having the knowledge about a particular topic is one thing but understanding who you are and how you can best work in this movement is another conversation. Honestly, it is a conversation that we ought to have more often.
Only being aware about issues does not create sustainable work. Waiting for the next sensation or scandal for us to band together is not enough. If our ability to maintain awareness pulses and surges with media attention, then what are we doing in the meantime? Knowing yourself and understanding how you best navigate spaces with diverse backgrounds and identities is necessary for the sustainability of this work. As you start to peel back the layers to understand your place in activism, it is so easy, and I include myself in this group, to believe that there are people better-equipped to handle those conversations or be a part of that charge. Never doubt that you are needed. You have a certain set of skills, abilities, and passions that are unique to who you are and you have a place in creating change that is meaningful to you.
Staying woke is not one-size fits all. It is not about the hashtags, the t-shirts, or the demonstrations. It is about knowing who you are and how you can add to the movement of change. If that is through volunteering, hosting a monthly book club or movie night that addresses challenging topics, or even giving to organizations that are on the front lines, your wokeness is needed. To listen to this wonderful podcast that inspired this post, click here.