I'm "Woke"--Are You?

From the September 2015 PNL #845

Angelina Vargas
I’m “Woke” — Are You?
Angelina Vargas
Angelina is a Junior at SU majoring in Selected Studies and Education and minoring in Psychology. Stepping from The Bronx, she aims to include and engage everyone in critical conversations about the Syracuse community and their communities.
THE General Body is a family I gained my first semester of sophomore year in college. I didn’t expect to learn so much about the many systems of oppression that exist in our communities at both macro and micro levels, let alone find a niche of passionate and radical beings. I’ve always pictured myself resisting injustice; however, I did not know how to assemble the tools together to wake up the community I came from.
Due to the scarcity of unconventional knowledge and education in big cities such as my hometown, the Bronx, people in the community become oblivious to their rights. We are all so oppressed in blocks containing different worlds all at once that we become exhausted and do not recognize our lack of privilege. We rely so much on faith and hope to get us by in our everyday lives that sometimes we let things go in order to live a happy and satisfied life. So you can already picture the classroom settings in our communities—strict curriculum, barely any time to think about the real issues, always motivational and sometimes too idealistic. It’s understandable that our schools aim to motivate and inspire us; however, hidden agendas practiced such as gender norms and aspiration to be part of the 1% elite.
“And so here I am, day one of the D.A.T. (Diversity and Transparency) Sit-In [….], dazed and confused. I just invaded school property and went against authority.” That was me at the beginning of the movement. I was so frightened and anxious about what I had just done. Occupying and protesting authority was a first-time experience for me. I didn’t think I would ever be capable of doing such a thing one day. Thanks to the people I met from September to December and the people I spent 18 days in a sit-in with, I was able to learn about the space I am allowed to reclaim as mine and know my power as a student. Being a member of THE General Body shaped me. I was able to learn about the intersectional identities we all hold and how to be inclusive of them everywhere I go. As a first generation, working class, Latina woman it was crucial for me to understand my purpose in being part of the movement. It was crucial because I come from a marginalized background, and just because I come from an oppressed background does not mean that I am aware of the injustices. What is even more interesting is the coincidence that is the simultaneous college student uprisings across the nation and the newly founded Black Lives Matter movement.
The Black Lives Matter movement was created by three women of color back in 2012 when Trayvon Martin was murdered. According to its website, “#BlackLivesMatter is a call to action and a response to virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society. Black Lives Matter is a unique contribution that goes beyond extrajudicial killings of Black people by police vigilantes.” It wasn’t until just a year ago on August 9th, 2014 when Michael Brown was killed that the Black Lives Matter movement proliferated. Talks about racism and the different ways in which Black bodies have been commodified for centuries became new conversations.
2014 was a year of coalitions. Knowing that they happened both in college/university grounds such as THE General Body and in activist groups around the same time made it inevitable for people to realize that all the issues people were fighting for were connected. As a Latina I sided with the Black Lives Matter movement. Most of my involvement and input in THE General Body has been about making sure Black people are included in all of the decision making. Otherwise, the same exclusive oppression of Black people will continue the way it is. Sometimes it was hard for me to speak on behalf of the Black community because I am a Latina woman and in the Latin American community there are many issues to address as well, one of them being the wage gap we are facing as we get paid, on average, 56 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. Not to mention, the definition of what it means to be Black is still blurred. I felt confused about my identity. Should I stand with the Black community and help them organize or should I help strengthen my Latin American community who has not been present as much in THE General Body movement for reasons I do not yet understand? 
The #Black Lives Matter movement is a complicated one due to the fact that there are still many disagreements about who should be included and who should not be. This stalls the movement, but makes it a deep, learning experience for many. It is different than the Civil Rights Movement in the sense that we are fighting for more identities in the Black community than before. It is one that aims to be as inclusive as possible of underprivileged identities. Looking back at THE General Body movement, I noticed that inclusion. It is an inclusion that does not happen from one day to another, but is instead a continuous learning process. From now on, I intend to focus on the Latin American community on my campus. We are moving in a fast, but unilateral speed. I’ll be the one to advocate for unity within and between both the Black and Latina communities. What occurs on campus grounds is reflective of what is occurring in the nation and around the world. I urge and encourage everyone to become active in today’s peaceful conversations and learn the importance of all underprivileged and oppressed people. I am a member of THE General Body, joined La L.U.C.H.A. (Latinos Undergraduates Creating History in America) as the education chair for this upcoming 2015-2016 academic year. La L.U.C.H.A. was founded in Syracuse University the summer of 1989 by students who were discontent with the lack of organizations aiming to serve the Latin community in the school. Lucha is the Spanish word for struggle, or fight; “What we as Latinos must do all over the Americas to survive.” I am also taking education classes to unlearn everything that I have learned that has been detrimental to society.
My generation is coming up with many different social media trends and Twitter hashtags that are describing and explaining our passion for social justice. One recent one has been the #StayWoke hashtag. It colloquially implies that you are awake and aware of the systematic oppressions occurring in today’s society. You are active in your communities and are interchanging thoughts with your surrounding peers to improve the issues around you. I personally consider myself to be “woke” because I am thinking critically of everything everywhere I go and I believe it is imperative that all students are engaged as well for we will become the blueprint for America in a couple more years

Angelina is a Junior at SU majoring in Selected Studies and Education and minoring in Psychology. Stepping from The Bronx, she aims to include and engage everyone in critical conversations about the Syracuse community and their communities.


The author, second from the left, participated in an interview on the radio show Sway in the Morning,
about THE General Body's actions. Photo courtesy the Author.

 

 

THE General Body is a family I gained my first semester of sophomore year in college. I didn’t expect to learn so much about the many systems of oppression that exist in our communities at both macro and micro levels, let alone find a niche of passionate and radical beings. I’ve always pictured myself resisting injustice; however, I did not know how to assemble the tools together to wake up the community I came from.

Due to the scarcity of unconventional knowledge and education in big cities such as my hometown, the Bronx, people in the community become oblivious to their rights. We are all so oppressed in blocks containing different worlds all at once that we become exhausted and do not recognize our lack of privilege. We rely so much on faith and hope to get us by in our everyday lives that sometimes we let things go in order to live a happy and satisfied life. So you can already picture the classroom settings in our communities—strict curriculum, barely any time to think about the real issues, always motivational and sometimes too idealistic. It’s understandable that our schools aim to motivate and inspire us; however, hidden agendas practiced such as gender norms and aspiration to be part of the 1% elite.

“And so here I am, day one of the D.A.T. (Diversity and Transparency) Sit-In [….], dazed and confused. I just invaded school property and went against authority.” That was me at the beginning of the movement. I was so frightened and anxious about what I had just done. Occupying and protesting authority was a first-time experience for me. I didn’t think I would ever be capable of doing such a thing one day. Thanks to the people I met from September to December and the people I spent 18 days in a sit-in with, I was able to learn about the space I am allowed to reclaim as mine and know my power as a student. Being a member of THE General Body shaped me. I was able to learn about the intersectional identities we all hold and how to be inclusive of them everywhere I go. As a first generation, working class, Latina woman it was crucial for me to understand my purpose in being part of the movement. It was crucial because I come from a marginalized background, and just because I come from an oppressed background does not mean that I am aware of the injustices. What is even more interesting is the coincidence that is the simultaneous college student uprisings across the nation and the newly founded Black Lives Matter movement.

The Black Lives Matter movement was created by three women of color back in 2012 when Trayvon Martin was murdered. According to its website, “#BlackLivesMatter is a call to action and a response to virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society. Black Lives Matter is a unique contribution that goes beyond extrajudicial killings of Black people by police vigilantes.” It wasn’t until just a year ago on August 9th, 2014 when Michael Brown was killed that the Black Lives Matter movement proliferated. Talks about racism and the different ways in which Black bodies have been commodified for centuries became new conversations.

2014 was a year of coalitions. Knowing that they happened both in college/university grounds such as THE General Body and in activist groups around the same time made it inevitable for people to realize that all the issues people were fighting for were connected. As a Latina I sided with the Black Lives Matter movement. Most of my involvement and input in THE General Body has been about making sure Black people are included in all of the decision making. Otherwise, the same exclusive oppression of Black people will continue the way it is. Sometimes it was hard for me to speak on behalf of the Black community because I am a Latina woman and in the Latin American community there are many issues to address as well, one of them being the wage gap we are facing as we get paid, on average, 56 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. Not to mention, the definition of what it means to be Black is still blurred. I felt confused about my identity. Should I stand with the Black community and help them organize or should I help strengthen my Latin American community who has not been present as much in THE General Body movement for reasons I do not yet understand? 

The #Black Lives Matter movement is a complicated one due to the fact that there are still many disagreements about who should be included and who should not be. This stalls the movement, but makes it a deep, learning experience for many. It is different than the Civil Rights Movement in the sense that we are fighting for more identities in the Black community than before. It is one that aims to be as inclusive as possible of underprivileged identities. Looking back at THE General Body movement, I noticed that inclusion. It is an inclusion that does not happen from one day to another, but is instead a continuous learning process. From now on, I intend to focus on the Latin American community on my campus. We are moving in a fast, but unilateral speed. I’ll be the one to advocate for unity within and between both the Black and Latina communities. What occurs on campus grounds is reflective of what is occurring in the nation and around the world. I urge and encourage everyone to become active in today’s peaceful conversations and learn the importance of all underprivileged and oppressed people. I am a member of THE General Body, joined La L.U.C.H.A. (Latinos Undergraduates Creating History in America) as the education chair for this upcoming 2015-2016 academic year. La L.U.C.H.A. was founded in Syracuse University the summer of 1989 by students who were discontent with the lack of organizations aiming to serve the Latin community in the school. Lucha is the Spanish word for struggle, or fight; “What we as Latinos must do all over the Americas to survive.” I am also taking education classes to unlearn everything that I have learned that has been detrimental to society.

My generation is coming up with many different social media trends and Twitter hashtags that are describing and explaining our passion for social justice. One recent one has been the #StayWoke hashtag. It colloquially implies that you are awake and aware of the systematic oppressions occurring in today’s society. You are active in your communities and are interchanging thoughts with your surrounding peers to improve the issues around you. I personally consider myself to be “woke” because I am thinking critically of everything everywhere I go and I believe it is imperative that all students are engaged as well for we will become the blueprint for America in a couple more years.

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