A team of high school students love board games so much, they designed one of their own with a path of purple, red, blue and green tiles against a backdrop adorned with pictures of handcuffs, a poplar lynching tree, a Black power fist and a saxophone.
“We based the mechanics on Candyland and called it Woke,” Niyana Daniels, 14, told the Albany Times Union. She was referring to a cosmically weighted slang term. To Daniels, “woke” means a heightened awareness of social and racial injustice, a rigged game, a tilted playing field, knowing the history of the community and what’s currently happening “good and bad.” Woke was one of five projects — a graphic novel, murals, a musical CD, a quilt — created by 35 Capital Region high school students chosen for an annual five-week summer program. It’s sponsored by Albany’s Underground Railroad History Project.
The teens divide into five teams to create an art project for the historic Myers house, an 1850s brick home owned by a Black couple who gave sanctuary to escaped slaves in the 1850s headed to Canada. The program is called Young Abolitionist Teen Scholars’ Institute and the final projects were presented to a crowd of visitors Thursday (Aug. 9) at the Myers house. The Woke team explained the game. Players roll dice and move bottles filled with gem-like colors. They gain or lose steps by drawing from a stack of cards inscribed with questions and answering them correctly. Questions can be about any point in Black history from the Haitian revolution to 1970s Black Panthers to the movie “Black Panther.”
There are also Pick a Victim cards. These allow a player to demand his victim perform anything from Tupac’s “Keep Your Head Up” or Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” or dance to Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.” Ironically, all were hits long before the Woke designers were even born. “The research for the questions took as long as designing the game,” said Enoch Rwigenza, 15. “It’s OK for players not to know all the answers. You learn as you go along.” One team created a comic book style history of Albany’s Rapp Road, which was a safe haven for Black Mississippians escaping the Jim Crow South’s oppression. Another team created a vibrantly colorful quilt. Many students said their high schools did not teach them about the Ku Klux Klan’s terrorism after the Civil War or Malcolm X’s beliefs or Martin Luther King Jr.’s Selma march. Their team coaches helped them find books, magazine and newspaper articles to read and documentaries to watch as part of their research.