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Reclaiming the Word “Woke” as Part of African American Culture

WHEREAS, Black history is a critical aspect of American history and has shaped American culture, including the evolution of language; and

WHEREAS, The words "Wake Up" and "Woke" have served as a call to action as conveyed by social activist Marcus Garvey who stated, "Wake up Ethiopia! Wake up Africa", and the Negro Mine Workers who in 1940 issued the statement, "We were asleep. But we will stay woke from now on," in advocating against discriminatory pay; and

WHEREAS, The term "Woke" was first highlighted in the 1962 essay, "If You're Woke, You Dig It", featured in the "New York Times" by Harlem-based writer William Melvin Kelley who documented the cultural appropriation and distortion of language, resulting in certain idioms being abandoned by their original Black creators; and

WHEREAS, The term "Woke" has been similarly misused, as traditionally and white-focused media have reframed "Woke" as trendy new slang, eroding its cultural connection and separating the term from its historical grounding in social justice; and

WHEREAS, Six decades later, anti-Black racists have engaged in a similar exercise of cultural appropriation to weaponized and misdefine the term "Woke", as evidenced by the "Stop W.O.K.E. Act", specifically targeting the teaching of American history and Black educators; and

WHEREAS, Black educators are more likely to teach subjects that incorporate an inclusive view of history, and legislation like the "Stop W.O.K.E. Act" threatens the free speech and livelihood of teachers, and the quality of education received by all students, most recently students in Florida.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP affirms the term "Woke" and its historical connection to Black history, Black liberation movements, and social justice.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP through its units encourages a historically accurate and correct use of the term "Woke" when its misuse is identified.

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP condemns cultural appropriation, misuse of Black idioms, and specific efforts by anti-Black racists to distort and redefine the specific term "Woke."