What is WOKE in this day and age
Is it simply activism only from a social media page?
Is it an afro and a pick?
An Olympic stage raised clinched fist
Consciously eating organic kale salad
While digesting an Erykah Badu ballad
Is it Nat Turner’s unspoken rage?
An Angela Davis gaze
Is it a national anthem knee?
What is WOKE in the 21st Century?

What does it mean to be WOKE?
Is it the audacity to have hope?
The subtle militancy of Malcolm X’s ghost
Political satire at an extreme right wing roast
Pledging allegiance to a black body swinging from a tree
Being WOKE is strange fruit in the 21st Century

Is being WOKE something confined to the tongue,
Or the manacles of the miseducation of the Negro becoming undone?
The souls of black folk arising from a collective slumber
A raisin in the sun transcending the shade of the summer
Is it something we can taste, touch, see, hear, or feel?
Or is it only a vision our united third eye makes real?
What is the price we pay for being sound asleep?
Is it gentrification cultural misappropriation of being WOKE in this 21 Century?


  1. Reid Baron on June 1, 2018 at 4:22 PM

    This is really dynamite. I’m not sure the meaning of the last line comes through crystal clear to me. Anyway, this is quite a piece of work which asks an important, and very today, question. Is the question ‘what can we do besides being woke’?

  2. Ben Miller on June 7, 2018 at 2:44 PM

    This is one of the best pieces of writing I’ve read in a minute. Really powerful content, that really got me thinking. Sometimes I find that I personally don’t really like when poems rhyme, but the rhythm was crafted in a way that it really hits, so this piece is an exception. Also, it’s definitely a mark of a skilled writer to be able to weave so much wit, and even some humor, in an exploration and questioning of the being “woke” and the serious issues which one could be “woke” against (institutional racism, capitalism, climate change, etc). After Reid brought it up, I’m wondering what you did mean by the last line? I definitely liked it. What I gleaned from it was that being woke has been gentrified and appropriated by white people who just want to appear humanitarian and righteous but lack real concern, action, and certainly “The subtle militancy of Malcolm X’s ghost” when it comes to changing real life conditions.

    ~Ben, Free Minds Intern

    • Reid Baron on June 7, 2018 at 5:29 PM

      I’m glad you took up the strand, Ben. The question’s still on the table and maybe we’ll get an “answer” or maybe it is already there.

  3. Ginny on June 22, 2018 at 10:39 AM

    Moving! Like your specific examples. Consider ending the poem with the line, “What is the price..”

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