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Ava DuVernay Defines What 'Woke' Means In Powerful Speech

“Woke is not necessarily activism or protesting or all the things that we do…”

07/04/2017 10:18 EDT | Updated 07/04/2017 10:20 EDT

It was only just added to the Oxford English Dictionary, but the word "Woke" has been around for decades.

Defined as "alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice; frequently in stay woke," the word has more recently been associated with Black Lives Matter, as well as social injustice, racism, classism, and how they affect people's lives.

Basically, if you're woke, fantastic, but if you're not...

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And one thing's for sure: Ava DuVernay is definitely woke.

The "13th" director was recently honoured at the 2017 Essence Festival with the Woke Women Award, and during her acceptance speech, explained what the word "woke" means to her.

"For me, a big thing about this whole idea about being woke is about not focusing on yourself," she told the audience on Saturday. "It's about togetherness and family."

Paras Griffin via Getty Images
Ava DuVernay speaks onstage at the 2017 ESSENCE Festival presented by Coca-Cola at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on July 1, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for 2017 ESSENCE Festival )

"Woke is not necessarily activism or protesting or all the things that we do. It's about being there for each other in our time of need."

Explaining that she saw "wokeness" from a different perspective after the cast of "Queen Sugar" surprised her when they all showed up for the funeral of her father, DuVernay said, "They drove from New Orleans to Montgomery. All of them in their own cars. They figured out how to get there. But they were all there."

"And that is woke to me," she added. The "A Wrinkle in Time" director also explained that to her, "wokeness" is also about community and being there for one another.

"The wokeness of our community and what we have done throughout the generations to survive is to hold on to each other and to make sure that we are OK. And I encourage us and celebrate that we continue to do that," she said.

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