This poem was written by Jessica Kobe and published on Perspectives for a Diverse America on September 26, 2016.
Jessica Kobe
Grade Level

Reprinted by permission of the author.
Text Dependent Questions
According to the speaker, from where are threats coming?
They are coming from abroad and at home. The speaker implies that the threats are coming from law enforcement at home when they write, “by those who are supposed to keep us safe.”
According to the speaker, what do the following groups of people have in common: African Americans, Muslims, undocumented immigrants, the LGBTQ community, the poor and the unemployed?
They are all marginalized groups.
What does the word perceived mean? Why is this an important choice of wording given the topic?
Perceived means to be looked upon or interpreted in a certain way. The use of the word “perceived” highlights the
fact that young African Americans worry about the way others look at them or perceive them to be. How one is
perceived may be different from how they actually are, but the concern lies in the possibility rather than the reality.
As the speaker moves through the poem, multiple shifts in tone take place. Find these shifts and explain how the tone changes.
The poem begins with a tired and beleaguered tone. The use of the phrase “25 here, 50 there” suggests an inaccurate
account of the killings, yet sends home the message that because they are so frequent, they are hard to keep track
of. The stanza that begins, “When they aren’t being ripped from their families,” suggests a shift in tone, where the
speaker becomes more pointed and critical in their accounting. Rather than simply being a number that is hard
to keep track of, these are people with families that are being torn apart. The speaker’s tone becomes increasingly
passionate from here as they begin to list the other populations affected by cruelty. The stanza that begins,
“Today, my heart is crying” shows another shift. The speaker’s voice slows down. Rather than feeling tired as in the
beginning, they now feel saddened, but realize that there is no time for tiredness or sadness. The time is now to take a
stand. And the final stanzas serve as a triumphant call to action.
What is the significance of the title?
The title has two meanings. First, awake represents those oppressed groups in the poem that are already aware of
the injustices that they and others suffer in society. The second meaning is a call to action to wake up. All of us need
to be aware of, or woke to, what is happening and to stand in solidarity to create positive change.
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