Maxine Waters told an audience of black millennials to "stay woke"

Rep. Maxine Waters
Source: Lauren Victoria Burke/AP
Rep. Maxine Waters
Source: Lauren Victoria Burke/AP

Maxine Waters knows her audience.

The longtime California lawmaker was the subject of a great profile from BuzzFeed reporter Darren Sands, who traces how the 78-year-old's outspoken defiance of the Trump administration has suddenly turned her into a viral sensation. Among the more intriguing anecdotes is this one, relayed by Million Hoodies Movement for Justice activist Dante Barry. He said that Waters made an appearance at a recent panel in D.C.

"Toward the end she appeared to be unable to recall her final statement," Sands wrote. "Then she remembered to everyone’s delight: 'Oh, yes, stay woke.' She walked out with the room on fire.'"

Rep. Maxine Waters and Hillary Clinton
Source: Damian Dovarganes/AP

Waters — Auntie Maxine to the interwebs — has risen from the specter of a long and contentious congressional ethics investigation to bonafide social media star. Her abrupt press conferences, pull-no-punches sound bites and sidelong glances have turned her into one of the most outspoken Democrats on Capitol Hill and modeled the sort of no-holds-barred activism that more people are eager to see from their elected officials.

As it turns out, "stay woke" has become something of a catchphrase for Waters. In another speech on March 28, this time at the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, Waters told her audience: "I'm gonna teach you what the young folks have taught me: stay woke!" The crowd erupted into cheers.

Waters is proof that it's never too late to have your moment in the spotlight.

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Jamilah King

Jamilah King is a senior staff writer at Mic. She was previously an editor at Colorlines.

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