With its roots in African-American Vernacular English (AAVE), the phrase 'staying woke' was born out of racial justice and popped up around 1938 as part of a song by a protest blues singer Lead Belly in which he refers to the need to 'stay woke' in the light of racially motivated threats and attacks. In his song Scottsbro Boys, he refers to nine Black teenagers and young men accused falsely of raping two white women in Alabama in 1931.
In this episode of Voices Kadambari Raghukumar looks at at how the word 'woke' has morphed, been coopted, and some will say appropriated even. How did 'woke' become this catchall word across different global movements now, and some times weaponized and used in a pejorative way?
Ira Munn joins us in the podcast to provide some background to the word’s past and his understanding of it growing up in the 80s in the US. Ira’s African American, a former history teacher and an entrepreneur now who's called NZ home for a few years.
Also joining the conversation is Romania born Andreea Calude, Senior Lecturer in Linguistics, University of Waikato.Calude along with her research students recently decided to look into the widespread social media use of the hashtag #WokeAF. She talks about the significance of 'intensifiers' in the English language and how some words go through an amount of 'semantic bleaching' taking on a broader meaning than it's origin and the use of novel structures, such as #WokeAF.
Listen to the full conversation here on Voices with Kadambari Raghukumar: