Our Story

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FOLAKE PHILLIPS

Founder & Executive Director

AWỌ is a social justice nonprofit that offers inspiring programs and community workshops to bring people together across racial, economic and cultural divides to unpack and share a vast array of different human experiences, as well as, create new opportunities for collective upward mobility. 

 

AWỌ was founded in 2020 by Folake Phillips, a Yoruba princess from Osun State in Nigeria, in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minnesota police and the national street protests that erupted for Black Lives Matter in the midst of the US COVID-19 pandemic.  The organization started by facilitating discussions around structural racism via color, class and culture in hopes of bridging gaps and creating opportunities for deeper cross-cultural understanding, exchange and connection. 

 

AWỌ, pronounced æ-waa, is the word for skin and also color in the Yoruba language of Nigeria.

The stories we tell ourselves and each other

have rippling effects beyond our own circles.

ROOTS IN AFRICA

Our story starts with a little girl born in Lagos, Nigeria. Moved by the Black Lives Matter protests and the death of George Floyd, she felt a need to help shift social narratives to be more inclusive for her son and those who look like her.

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OUR HUEMANITY

This incomplete understanding of Huemanity perpetuates social inequalities, generational traumas, continuing the cycles of oppression and systemic exploitation of different groups of people to this day. Though we know that these gaps exist, many of us are not aware of our own cultural stories or even the narratives that feed our implicit biases. Most of us have no life experience befriending people outside our family networks or “cultural tribe,” be it ethnic, religious, or even recreational.  Living in segregated neighborhoods, working in cultural silos, we have few opportunities to cross over and know people different from ourselves.  At worst, this continues negative social attitudes towards dark skinned people that have led to anti-black bias and violence in many of our communities. 

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INSPIRED BY BLM

Black Lives Matter. And all Black Lives are not the same. Black identity is not monolithic, but just as wide-ranging, nuanced and varied as the Asians, the Caucasians, or the Indigenous Peoples. Throughout human history, the stories of people with lighter skin, color or race have dominated Western history, religion, commerce and education in different parts of the world. Yet there are still many stories of people with different skin, color or race who have not been heard. 

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BIRTH OF AW

In response to these conscious and unconscious systemic injustices, AWỌ was born. AWỌ in Nigeria is a word that means skin and also color. Learning from the experiences and stories of people different from ourselves is critical to a more holistic perspective and therefore, more diversity and inclusion.

What's your story?

Join us as we journey to complete

the whole story of our Huemanity.

Our Mission & Vision

AWỌ aspires to better understand the significance that color, class and culture have on individual stories being heard within society. With a focus on innovative programs and educational resources, we engage people of all shades to share, learn and create a more complete and accurate narrative of Huemanity. It is our Mission to create opportunities for those whose stories have been historically unheard or misrepresented. 

The Vision of AWỌ is to achieve a more inclusive and representative world by focusing on the unheard stories of individuals within society to build a more collective understanding about ourselves. We believe that a more complete story of Huemanity creates accurate cultural narratives within society and translates into more inclusion and opportunities in local schools, workplaces and government agencies.