From The Front Lines To Hollywood: These Influential Women Share What It Means To Be 'Woke'

These change agents are part of a new guard of activists, educators, journalists, thinkers and creators who are more than conscious — they’re ever vigilant about creating a nation in which we all have a seat at the table.

Check out our May 2017 cover stars — women from all walks of life — as they share what it truly means to be ‘woke.’

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The Impact of Social Activism: There’s nothing special about what I did. I wasn’t already an insider. I was a person who was upset with the status quo and hoped to move things in a better direction.

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Activism Through Pain: I’m very proud of the Trayvon Martin Remembrance Weekend, when we celebrate his birthday and not his death. There’s a Peace Walk for the Miami community to let young people and the world know that you have a right to walk in peace without being followed, chased, pursued, profiled or murdered.

 

Life After Trayvon: You really don’t know how strong you are until your strength is tested. Through Circle of Mothers we try to become a coping mechanism for women who have lost a child. We empower, we laugh together, we cry together, we hug. I’ve found that togetherness—us praying for each other and lifting one another up—has helped a great deal.

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Seeing the Bigger Picture: Women are constantly under attack. We are being assaulted and exploited on so many levels, not just sexually but also mentally. If we look at all of this through a larger prism, it is difficult to say that one issue is more important than the other. They all become a part of our human rights struggle.

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Together We Are Stronger: Using the Women’s March platform has allowed us to reach new ­demographics in our efforts to raise awareness around immigration reform, reproductive justice rights, religious freedom and LGBTQIA rights.

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Voice of Reason: There was a time when we engaged in rigorous debate on policy. Now we are in an era of gaslighting, which is dangerous—because we should all be allowed to have our own perspectives but not our own facts. I take my role very seriously. I count it as a privilege to be a voice for my people and to serve as a translator about what’s really going on.

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Writing While Woke: I never try to elicit a response from the audience. I always just tell a story and it never really occurs to me until later that it’s gonna have an effect on the audience. It’s really just about the world in the story and what needs to be said

 

Using Her Power: Being able to portray what a police beating looked like and what that felt like was really important to me. I was just angry. There was no way that we could be calling Black Lives Matters activists “terrorists.” That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. And getting to tell those stories makes a difference.

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Writing With a Purpose: I have an audience that is very diverse but I’m writing for Black women. It’s the highest compliment that I was able to do the things I love without having to compromise my Blackness.

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Support Is the Key: Women can empower ourselves by embracing the intersections of our advocacy and educating ourselves on the issues impacting others. When we stand united with what may superficially seem like uncommon allies, it allows us to reach further and increases our ability to shift policies and legislation. There’s a movement chant that we use that says, “The people united shall never be defeated.” That needs to be our mantra moving forward. 

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If There’s One Silver Lining in This Political Climate: To me, this presidency has been a blessing in disguise. It has shined a bright light on issues of oppression that communities of color have been facing—some for centuries, others for decades. More people are awake, fired up and ready to act. It took this presidency to send a message to the American people that all we’ve got is each other and the time is now for visible dissent in the form of protest. 

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Stepping Up to the Challenge: I came back from protesting the killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge [Louisiana] and was called to the White House again. It had been a year and a half since the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, where citizens were subject to militarized weaponry. Not very much was different in Baton Rouge. I said that to the President and Louisiana’s governor. I had to remember to be brave and that I didn’t go there to engage in politics. I went there to engage in empowerment for the people.

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Staying Hopeful: If we remain engaged we can transform our world. No one is coming to save us. It’s people like you and me who have to build a multiracial democracy embracing the fullness of our spirits and all of our experiences.

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On Being a Woke Journalist: I come from the Ida B. Wells school of journalism: I have to be fair, but I don’t think I have to be balanced, if that makes sense. When I’m reporting on dead Black children who are being killed while unarmed, [I want people to know] that it is wrong for them to die that way. I have to be fair to the authorities, get their side of the story and understand what happened. I’m not projecting my own worldview into the story but I still know it’s wrong. I think, as a mother, as a Black person, as a Black woman, I still have all of that in my reporting. That’s who I am. I’m coming at the story with that.