The estimated reading time for this post is 8 minutes
Who woke epp?
It was 2002. I was in the market with my mother in Nairobi, Kenya. We were shopping (just in case you thought we went there for evangelism or market evaluation… just so we are clear and on the same page).
Alright. We were buying clothes, majorly, and some stationery for me.
Prior to that, I have no recollection of us buying so many clothes at the same time and very nice ones at that. This was shopping for the whole family. I was thrilled. Imagining myself in those clothes and cameras clicking on and off with passers-by stumbling into electric poles all because of me was not hard at all. At all.
I really was not interested in the stationary even though it was obvious that if I did not get them, I would have nothing to write on in school the next day being Monday and my Jomo Kenyatta teachers would be more than happy to have me kiss the blackboard.
But, all that paled in comparison to the grand scheme of my impending popularity from the new clothes.
We were at the last stall when kasala burst. (Please, bring tissue. This memory still hurts).
The market we were in, to the best of my recollection, was more like open space with no special demarcation between sellers. The clothes section especially, had goods spilling into one another from the different tables they were placed on. Yet, everyone knew who owned what.
So, when I say ‘stall’, kindly understand that I am just being nice.
I think this last purchase was meant to be for myself and Debby. Mummy was bargaining with the seller while I stood, arms akimbo and bag of previously purchased stuff resting beside me.
Or so I thought.
I must have looked down at some point and discovered the bag missing.
“Mummy, I can’t find the bag, Ma.”
When some things happen and you are a spawn of a Yoruba woman, you better employ all your respect and humility tactics. Pronto!
“You cannot kini? Look around! Where did you put it? Beside you? You could not carry it? How heavy was that small bag? What is all this? You had just one job…”
I did not know when tears clouded my vision and I was almost telepathically begging the thief to return the bag, even if it was only the bag.
“Well, we can only repurchase the stationary. Those clothes are history.”
Fam, my heart broke! My shoulder could hardly hold my heavy head again and my neck drooped forward as if to pull my body down to sleep right there and then.
See fame walking away from me. Just look at.
When I learnt that those were supposed to be our last purchases before returning to Nigeria, I could almost faint.
International fame, fa!!!
I had held what I had too loosely, taken my eyes off it for too long and had not only lost it but also lost out on what could have been.
Trust my mother to relay the whole thing to my father. I have no idea how I overcame the guilt that incident brought upon me. Those purchases were for the family. All of us.
My parents were students and I have no idea how they were having enough to take care of us. But, those extra shillings had to have been specially squeezed out.
Hard way to learn staying woke. Of course, ‘staying woke’ was not an existent phrase as at then.
Prior to the urban slang , ‘woke’ had been used to mean being conscious and aware of racial and social injustice especially in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. You can read more about it here.
From whatever angle, woke always points to awareness. Always.
Many of us consider ourselves aware and awake. So, who needs to be aware? Why are you telling us what we already know and do? We are the definition of woke!
Alright, sir. Alright, ma.
But, this post is to help you take care IN your wokeness.
Woke can get too Wide:
Let’s take the social and racial injustice aspect and try to list the things we need to be aware of. Really, just take a few seconds to think about it. The #BlackLivesMatter, #SayNoToRape, cut health and education expenditure in the Nigerian budget, political play and pulls in the COVID-19 pandemic, online scammers making life hell for legit humans, fake drugs, road side vendors committing all sorts of evil to our consumables… There is a long list.
From a corner of your bed, back supported by throw pillows, leaning on a shoe rack, legs crossed, you can be transported into the very heart of every injustice via social media. And your heart bleeds. Your emotions flutter. And your nerves jump.
It is many things needing awareness. By the time your being woke tries to cover all of these, you are exhausted. Many people had to take breaks from Twitter in the past weeks because the width and extent of happenings had become a tad too much.
Woke Can be Offence, Offending and Off-putting:
The fact that something is calling for you to be aware is enough warning that it most likely won’t be something pleasant. Many of us become aware of injustice and yeah, shit-storms, because of something or someone offending us. It could be offence on our moral, religious, professional or cultural standing. I remember the time a tweet about doctors really put me off. It was not possible for me to sit back while an apparent outsider said trash about my profession. I was livid. It was not the first and obviously not the last but that time, I could not let the offence walk free.
But, how many more would I react to?
Many times, I walk through the streets of twitter, see offence calling out to me and I just say, “Not today, bro. Not today.” If you are easily offended, staying woke might be hard. You will get hurt. You will hurt others. And it is still no guaranty that anything would change. The need to be aware also comes with the need to cut off people. I surely do not mean axe-ing them but asking yourself if this friendship, acquaintanceship or whatever ship y’all are in together is worth losing your sanity over.
Staying Woke can be a Kill-Joy:
One minute you are laughing at Taaooma and Twyse and adding some Lasisi to it while Josh2Funny also pops in at some point, next thing, you are reading about some politicians purchasing cars worth billions while your retired mother struggles to get her pension. Every funny bone in you retires and your blood boils. Right as you are congratulating your friend who just got married, the news of a woman beaten to death by her husband features and you don’t even know what prayers to exclude or include for your friend anymore. You see, being woke and aware of positive things is possible. You can and you should filter your social media content. However, times will come when even your filters, blocked lists and un-followed accounts won’t be able to shield you. Because, life happens beyond and outside social media.
Information is not only sought. It seeks us out. And it sometimes sucks out our joy.
The Need to be Aware Can be the End:
The end of many things. Stay woke and know who is cheating on who, find out which company is not paying workers, sieve out states that are not racially discriminating, know which Northern states are free of bloodshed, observe which of your friends is a rapist, rape apologist, racist, online fraud and you discover that some things just end right there and then.
The job you’ve coveted for years turns out to be a white-washed tomb with skeletons in it. The relationships you enjoyed watching reveal their true selves. Some schools you wanted to study at happen to be full of racists. You just realize that some paths end there because beyond that point of awareness, there is no redemption. None. You decide to join protests against some of these things and your career ends. Your vision is lost. You die. The end.
I endorse the need for awareness. Not to be so focused on your own goals and future achievements like my impending fame from clothes. To be a part of what is currently going on and not so stuck in the ‘what will/can be’. I understand that lack of information and misinformation can be very restricting and can also lead to wrong moves. The stock market is a good example. Amaka, I don’t mean stock-fish.
However, staying woke is not for the weak.
For every time you become aware, a burden is passed on to you.
You become part of a chain of events; A chain holds down (?values). A chain pulls apart (?injustice). Neither is easy. And when you are a part, you just have to work.
But, “I’m just an onlooker”, you may say. Truth is, no one is truly a mere observer. If you think you are not moving, know that the earth is and with that, you are. For some, the work induced is subtle. While in others, it is quite overt.
In all your wokeness, get wisdom. Be aware of your limits, saturation levels and save yourself.