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Tue, 03.21.2023

Black History and ‘Stay Woke,’ a story

*Black History and 'Stay Woke' is affirmed on this date in 1923. This social concept revolves around black consciousness "waking up" to a new reality or activist framework.

The earliest known examples of wokeness date to the early 20th century. In 1923, a collection of sayings and ideas by the Jamaican philosopher and social activist Marcus Garvey included the summons "Wake up Ethiopia! Wake up, Africa!" Published in the UNIA Negro World newspaper, it called global Black citizens to become more socially and politically conscious.

A few years later, the phrase "stay woke" became part of a spoken afterword in the 1938 song "Scottsboro Boys," a protest song by Blues musician Lead Belly. The song describes the 1931 Scottsboro Boys episode of nine black teenagers accused of raping two white women. Lead Belly says at the end of an archival recording of the song that he'd met with the Scottsboro defendants' lawyer, who introduced him to the men themselves. "I made this little song about down there," Lead Belly says. "So, I advise everybody, be a little careful when they go along through there; best stay woke, keep their eyes open." 

In 1962, Black novelist William Melvin Kelley wrote a first-person piece for the Times called "If You're Woke You Dig It; No mickey mouse can be expected to follow today's Negro idiom without a hip assist." In the piece, Kelley points out that the origins of the language of then-fashionable beatnik culture — words like "cool" and "dig" — lay not within white America but with Black Americans, predominantly among Black jazz musicians.  Spike Lee's 1988 film School Daze ends with the main protagonist Lawrence Fishburne saying," Wake Up."

The Black Lives Matter Movement is a 2016 American television documentary film starring Jesse Williams about the Black Lives Matter movement and the events that led to the movement's uprising. "Stay Woke" also became widespread because of Black Lives Matter. The "Stay Woke" documentary gives a deeper understanding of how the movement came to be and what the movement believes. The film debuted on May 26, 2016.

New Poem Each Day

Poetry Corner

Ethel Waters sleeps in the stable Looking up at the moon and the stars- It's a bright night in Lexington, Kentucky,- But the Colored Folks in town will not Rent a room... THE DEVILS MUSIC IN HELL (for Billie Holiday) by Julius E. Thompson.
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