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‘Woke’ is a call to activism

‘Woke’ is a call to activism for the young:

Poets have historically been on the forefront of social movements. “Woke: A Young Poet’s Guide to Justice” is a collection of poems by women that reflects joy and passion in the fight for social justice, tackling topics from discrimination, empathy and forgiveness to acceptance and speaking out.

Identity issues are covered, too, with poems on disability, gender, immigration and intersectionality. Each of the 24 poems is an invitation to join a new generation of activists and is easily recitable in the ever popular spoken-word tradition.

Co-author Mahogany L. Browne’s introduction first defines what it means to be woke: “To fight for your civil rights and to fight for the rights of your neighbors.” She calls the poems in the book “instruction manuals and anthems, as literary heartbeats and blueprints of survival for young people everywhere.”

The poems by Browne, Elizabeth Acevedo and Olivia Gatwood combine clear declarations with easily understood metaphors to convey progressive values.

Privilege is compared to a toolbox (“We can choose/to use it to help people who don’t have what we do”) and gender to a rainbow (“There are so many shades between boy and girl”). Each poem’s intended value appears next to its page number, including individuality (“Teeth Dance With Silver”), body positivity (“The Good Body”) and ableism (“The Ability to Be”).

“Right To” explains the value of protest: “If we must live, let it not be in silence … Each shadow surrounding our right to be outraged … Let us not sit hands crossed while our stomachs growl upset.”

“A Me-Shaped Box” brings stereotyping to light: “Before we even know someone, we say, ‘if you look like that, you go in thisss box!’ or ‘f you talk like this, you go in that box!’ … stereotyping keeps us from geeetting to know people for who they are.”

The text’s direct style is matched by richly colorful illustrations by Theodore Taylor III.

The varied topics are a great conversation-starter with children ages 8-12. Look for assigned subject headings located next to the page numbers.

Browne best describes the poems this way: “The ideas they tackle are layered and nuanced, the message is simple: Don’t Sleep.”