Essence
June 28, 2017 3:00 pm
Getty Images/Dave Bradley Photography

When we hear the term woke, there are a few celebrities that instantly come to mind; Erykah Badu, Amandla Stenberg, Jesse Williams, and Zendaya to name a few.

We’ve been using the term woke in our everyday vocabulary, in countless hashtags, and ESSENCE even covered a hundred woke women on the cover and throughout the pages of its May 2017 issue.

The term woke — made popular by Badu herself in her New Amerykah Part One album — is now getting its due respect in the Oxford English Dictionary.

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“By the mid-20th century, woke had been extended figuratively to refer to being ‘aware’ or ‘well informed’ in a political or cultural sense,” says the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). “In the past decade, that meaning has been catapulted into mainstream use with a particular nuance of ‘alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice’ popularized through the lyrics of the 2008 song Master Teacher by Erykah Badu, in which the words ‘I stay woke’ serve as a refrain, and more recently through its association with the Black Lives Matter movement, especially on social media.”

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The OED further explained, “This well established but newly prominent usage of woke has become emblematic of the ways in which black American culture and language are adopted by non-black people who don’t always appreciate their full historical and cultural context. It is therefore of particular interest that the earliest citation for woke, adj. in the figurative sense comes from a 1962 article by the African-American novelist William Melvin Kelley in the New York Times, entitled ‘If you’re woke, you dig it’, which describes how white beatniks were appropriating black slang at the time.”

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In recent years, staying woke has become practically necessary in order to speak out and stand up for injustices against the Black community, so this is definitely a win!

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