Have you ever watched a show and thought, “Hey, that’s me.” Well, if you’re Black, that rarely happens, and if you’re one of those, “Special” Black people, it never happens. Woke co-created and executive produced by Keith Knight’s on HULU is a show from the perspective of the Special Black people of California —the ones that aren’t rich.
Other Black people say California Black people are in “the sunken place”
Black people from other places, even Black people from Wisconsin, say, “People from Los Angeles are from ‘the sunken place.’” To reference the Black characters in the film “Get Out” who had been possessed by white people. I used to be insulted until I realized it was a little true.
In the series Woke, Keith Knight based in San Francisco (played by Lamorne Morris and renamed Keef Knight) goes from clear to woke. What is clear, well, that’s what I called myself until I had an incident similar to Keith’s in episode one of Woke.
If evolution is outlawed, only outlaws will evolve —Jello Biafra
Keef, in his Dead Kennedy shirt, was getting ready for a Comic-Con like appearance. He was stapling flyers announcing his appearance when the police tackled him. He met the description. His white friend came to his rescue or almost got him killed, depending on your perspective. It was a terrifying and humiliating experience.
As Keef walked into the liquor store of his gentrifying neighborhood two bottles of malt liquor start talking to him, not figuratively, but literally.
Keef was truly in shock. Clovis, his roommate, a “nonspecial” brother, said to him after he explained what had happened to him, “The police showed you how they felt about special brothers, and now we have to all hear about it.”
I did feel a bit attacked, though I am not that person anymore, I definitely used to be that person.
“I had no idea that you were [B]lack,” is not a compliment
In Los Angeles, I had the biggest poetry listserve and most popular poetry reading in Los Angeles. I worked with Bert Green, who put on the first Downtown LA Art Walk. Ed Rosenthal, the Poetry Broker, who went missing in 2010 from Joshua Tree National Park, but was miraculously found alive and disoriented six days later, asked me to help organize a poetry walk. I went to various art galleries and asked them if it was OK to have poets come by and read. If the gallery owner said yes, I put them on a map I created. The day before the art walk, I went around to remind gallery owners and confirm.
On one occasion, as downtown LA was becoming more gentrified, I went to an art gallery and was told by the security guard I was not allowed in, because of a private event. I knew the event was not private because I planned it. I sent my white boyfriend who got in with no problem, and then I told everyone what happened. Everyone was outraged, including the gallery owner, but the damage was done.
Do you take the red pill or the blue pill
Like Keith’s character, I was now woke and would be broke for the rest of my adult life.
As this was based on Keith’s real-life experiences, it gave me a better understanding of not only his work and trajectory but mine.
I had always wondered why Keith was mainly in the underground Zine scene and why his work was so hardcore. Did he not know that there are two ways to make it? A caricature of Blackness or an absence of Blackness. You cannot hit it big in the (Th)iking lane, but he has proved me wrong.
Woke is interesting for its realistically subtle portrayal of the Black artist’s life. In the time of Black spectacles, cancelings, and Jessica Krugs, this is a welcome show to wake up to.
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