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Conscious views to help expand your awareness

As a child of two West Indian immigrants, I overheard and was directly told about the trials and tribulations of being black in North America. I heard and registered their stories of inequality and injustice in employment and everyday life.  Hence, I always knew that a color-blind society really only sees things in black and white.  My mother left St. Kitts in her twenties to find new opportunities in New York, Montreal and eventually Toronto.  She always said she didn’t realize she was “Black” until she came to North America because in the islands the majority was Black and the minority was White and other non-Blacks. It was coming to the  United States and Canada that made her more socially and racially aware.  Now this awareness is described as being “woke.”  According to African American Vernacular English, the term Woke means to be socially aware. The more I think about the idea, people, and meanings associated with being Woke the less it resonates me.  Being in a precarious power relationship with whites and other non-black groups opened my mother’s eyes and made her socially and racially aware of the biases, prejudices, and systems of discrimination that privilege white over non white. This is what happens for many of us who choose the path of self knowledge over blissful ignorance and wearing the veil.  

As a youth, balancing out the “negativity” associated with being black came from learning about the rich and dynamic history of black people across the world beyond the rhetoric of Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, and Viola Desmond.  My brother and I were one of the few ones in our area that would read about black history and openly wear pro black clothing thanks to our Aunt Alva who sent us books from New York by Jawanza Kunjufu, Ida B. Wells and black inventors and abolitionists from New York.  I still remember going to New York at the age of 8 and seeing how differently blacks and whites lived seeing she lived in Manhattan near Shea Stadium and we stayed in the Bronx with our Aunt Joan. Even then I had a keen racial awareness that was beyond my age. With that being said, I think back now about how that is a sad commentary to be 8 years old and preoccupied with race and racism when my mind should have been pondering more innocent and less sophisticated ideas.

Fast forwarding to last year 2018, now in my adulthood as both an educator and artist, I put out an EP called Consciousness Raising (https://open.spotify.com/album/2aPC1mV…iGqlxpkrK9). It is a six song project that is a culmination of songs I wrote up to 10 years ago.  I was aware that putting out songs like “3rd Eye Opener” or “Gimme The Women (Like Assata) could and would potentially typecast me as Woke.  I take pride in being aware and having self knowledge, but i am not a fan of the Woke rabbit hole.  Nor do I think I know it all about African ancestral knowledges and histories or have all the answers to what is happening in our diasporic communities. I do know that the era of being Woke and the branding that comes along with it reminds me of a “psy op” (i.e. psychological operation) meant to promote a toxic liberalism and self righteousness in black people that is nothing more than seeking recognition from those who hold power and assigning blame and reproducing a type of negative stereotyping by creating false systems of standards and racialized protocol for determining how black or conscious someone is.

“Any man who endeavors to make a profit off the knowledge he has acquired instead of serving others through that knowledge is a person of minimal integrity and a traitor to his race.”

I have ruminated on this idea of being Woke and the entire conscious community that exists in Toronto and North America in general. In terms of Woke politics, someone could subscribe to being a Moor who follow Moorish Science teachings of Noble Drew Ali, the Nation of Islam following teachings of Elijah Muhammad, the Nubians who were formed by Dr. Malachi York, melanin scholars like Dr. Delbert Blair, Dr. Frances Cress Welsing,  Kemetic scholars and African centred scholarship led by Dr. John H. Clarke, Dr. Ivan Van Sertima, Runoko Rashidi, Dr. Yosef Ben Jochannan and the current lineup of YouTube scholars from Sara Suten Seti, Bro. Polight, Dr. Umar Johnson and countless others. Many of these scholars and their works are being used to make a profit and feed into a victimhood, low self-esteem dependency on an oppressor class that is not the definition of consciousness-raising or real liberation.  To paraphrase Haile Selassie, he once said:

“Any man who endeavors to make a profit off the knowledge he has acquired instead of serving others through that knowledge is a person of minimal integrity and a traitor to his race.”

Many in this Woke Conscious community are charlatans, bickering and fighting with each other, not moving with honour in terms of how they organize, scamming their “congregations” out of thousands of dollars, and overall not providing their followers and advocates with end games that will be socially, politically and economically sustainable for future generations of black people.  I refuse to align and self identify with the binary and popular notion of being Woke.

In turn, I would subscribe to the idea of being “subconscious” as an active participant in liberation politics beyond just being woke or playing the part of being “conscious”.  Being woke or in a conscious community, there is an entry-level understanding of information and acquiring knowledge that can lead to reactionary rhetoric and posturing whenever a crisis happens such as the police shooting of a black person, a clothing or media company creating racially offensive material or items or what happened a few years ago when Black Lives Matter Toronto sat-in and protested at the Pride parade against police brutality and were met with racialized insults from the white LGBTQ who were in attendance. This type of social reactivism like former NFL QB Colin Kaepernick’s stance to sit and then kneel during the U.S  national anthem in response to the large number of unarmed black men and women killed by police and law enforcement was met with opposition and vitriole by many who saw his attempt to bring politics into sports as sacrireligious.

However, the collusion by NFL owners to not hire him for another job when he became a free agent eventually resulted in a corporation like Nike signing him to show their allegiance to the socially aware athlete wherein being woke now is a type of branding and commercially viable way to marry corporate interests with the socially conscious to satisfy another commercial demographic who can help them meet their profit bottom line. The subliminal suggestion of Kaepernick wearing black leather and an Afro or wearing T-shirts with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and former Nation Of Islam Minister Malcolm X inflamed the liberal sports media but the signing with Nike illustrates how being Woke or “conscious” is for sale and can help a corporation find another demographic for their revenue stream just like everything else in a capitalist society.

The idea of being conscious or woke seems to have lost its meaning and currency becoming nothing more than posturing and finding different ways to make a hustle off of surface knowledge and facts about social issues/race and racism, and local/world history.  Mobilizing people to buy a product or put money into the pockets of organizations who do charity and not investment in black communities, which is what Jay Z has become emblematic of partnering with the NFL now, highlights the absurdity of the woke corporate Black man and how fraudulent these individuals are. If being woke means actually being alert and aware of how to make money off of black suffering and oppression then I want nothing to do with being Woke.

To be subconscious would mean finding ways to organize racialized and downpressed melaninated communities, building health and food infrastructures in ghettoized and newly gentrified areas where black people still reside, rites of passage and African centred learning programs and initiatives, and taking back responsibility to invest in our own businesses, entrepreneurs, and community events and establish subconscious networks to fight and build our own way.  

Maybe the new label is being “subconscious” which would mean taking one’s conscious realm into a deeper and much more meaningful and progressive level. To be subconscious requires a deeper ideological commitment to freedom, human rights, sovereignty, community development beyond rhetoric about slavery, binary thinking about whites as being devils, and holding antiquated views about women that could be construed by the collaborators and oppressors as being sexist or misogynistic. To be “subconscious” and build a healthy network of educators, musicians, artists organizers, entrepreneurs, parents, allies and the like is the way to go and the trend to becoming truly WOKE in these ever-changing times.

As for the idea of a WOKE generation, I think it is time to put that idea to bed and have a reawakening where new terms and ground can be forged to help out youth persist beyond the paradigms that exist right now.