Get Woke Nova (but actually)

Dyala Kasim

Following Charles Murray’s presentation, I felt completely disappointed and deeply hurt that such a speaker was allowed a platform at our University. Personally, I am all for listening to perspectives with which I disagree because I feel that dialogue is the only way we truly learn. This presentation was not that. This presentation was one in which peoples’ identities were literally torn apart in front of them, where their experiences were belittled and their voices were silenced.

Yet I also encountered something else this week, something powerful, real and raw, something that challenged Charles Murray’s hatred and let a myriad of different student perspectives be shared. And that something is Get Woke Nova.

Get Woke Nova is a Senior Project created by Communication majors Serene AlHalabi, Kat Gowland, Sarah O’Connor and Brynn Bannister. These four students saw an overall silencing of voices on campus and wished to do something that would raise awareness about important issues of identity. Thus, they have collected a range of stories from students and continue to post them on their Facebook and Instagram pages for all to see. They have also created “Wishing Trees” on South and Main campus, where a question will be posed each week so that people may write their own answers to them and hang these on the tree or fence.

Above all else, Get Woke Nova is attempting to uncover the invisible, hidden experiences of students, sharing them with the campus-wide population. It is bringing to light countless internal feelings that students are rarely given the platform to share, and allowing voices to not only to be heard, but also be listened to.

I am incredibly excited knowing that Serene, Kat, Brynn and Sarah are doing this kind of work at Villanova. As a minority, I often feel as though my culture and the experiences I’ve had are often tamped down, given only narrow spaces in which they can be shared with others. I have spoken to countless other students who have all echoed back the same thing: the feeling of being silenced at Villanova.

This is why I am so proud of Get Woke Nova’s four creators because I know that it is extremely difficult to be the one who takes the first step. They have broken the culture of silence and let in a multitude of voices, which is incredibly powerful and vital for our campus.    

Of course, there will be some perspectives that believe this kind of work “goes against free speech,” that, “people need to develop thicker skins” and “stop whining.” Once again, I am all for having a conversation with people disagree with me as long as they too are willing to listen. 

And this point is what I believe lies at the heart of this social justice project: to raise awareness about the experiences of students on this campus but also to allow us the space in which we can try and understand one another, no matter how different we may be.

So next time you encounter a Wishing Tree, a Get Woke Nova laptop sticker or another student’s story, I urge you to stop and think for a moment. Think about what these issues mean to you. And think about what you can do to ensure that we aren’t simply talking at each other, but with each other.