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Singer Erykah Badu. Photo: Andrew Batsch

Strictly speaking | Wokeness

The adjective woke, in the sense of “being alert to social injustice”, has had a meteoric rise in the last two years. It originated in African-American slang in the phrase stay woke, first recorded in the 1970s. But its usage has taken off in the last 10 years with the refrain of Erykah Badu’s song ‘Master Teacher’ (2008), and its use by the Black Lives Matter movement (2014). Staying woke was/is a rallying cry among African‑Americans in promoting awareness of racial injustice and police brutality, and maintaining the rage. It has prompted other social activists to use it, including those promoting the Me Too movement (2017) and environmental causes.

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