Stay Woke

Kayla’s bottle featuring the phrase “stay woke” in a backdrop of a tree, sun, and an eye.

A social pollinator is someone who embraces cultural diversity and encourages sustainable practices. I view myself as a social pollinator because I embrace and advocate for my community. In addition, I encourage my peers to do the same.

Throughout the course of the UIC heritage garden internship program, I have had the privilege of working with a diverse group of students, faculty, and community members. I have engaged in dialogues that ranged from the problem of led pipes contaminating water in the city of Chicago to the symbolism of the Monarch Butterfly and the decline it faces due to changing environmental conditions. Although this was not the first time I had heard of the dangers facing our planet, something was different about the message this time around. I was not just learning about various problems affecting my community, I was thinking about ways to take action.

When I got the opportunity to create an art piece showcasing a message of social and environmental change, I knew right away that I wanted to convey the feeling of being aware and taking charge. The central theme of my bottle revolves around the phrase ‘stay woke’. In my perspective, this phrase refers to seeing a problem for what it is and not making excuses to do nothing to fix it. In the process of creating an idea for a visual, I became hopeful for a future where people are being proactive and not trying to deny environmental and social problems. The idea of people being mindful of how they affect others and the environment, brought me hope for a more sustainable future.

I painted a large eye in the center of my bottle. The eye is very symbolic to me, because it represents the idea of keeping our eyes open to what is happening around us. It is so easy to embrace all the beauty around us, but we often quickly shut our eyes to all that is unpleasant. The open eye depicts the notion of embracing the bad with all the good. In my opinion that is the first step to change. I also painted a branching tree in the background. The tree is symbolic for life, and I also wanted it to represent the future of nature. I conveyed this message by making the tree have two distinct halves. One half of the tree is lively and branching out, while the other half is dead and bending downwards. This represents the two paths that we as human beings can voyage. The key to the more successful path is being aware and taking action.

I think it is important to note that standing up for change can be something as small as striving to be more sustainable in your everyday practices. For example, it has been known for some time that plastic water bottles are extremely harmful to the environment, yet they are still sold and purchased with great frequency. An example of acting in this scenario could be as simple as pledging to use a reusable water bottle.