An award-winning Carrboro-based cartoonist is having his stories brought to life in a Hulu original series called “Woke,” which premiered Wednesday.
Keith Knight has been in the cartoon industry for over 20 years, known best for his works “The K Chronicles” and “(th)ink." He has been writing comics that speak candidly about his experiences as a Black man for several years.
“I’ve been doing comics about police brutality for years, and racism," Knight said. "And I don’t know, I guess the world has just finally caught up."
“Woke,” which was pitched and created by Knight himself, is the semi-autobiographical story of a Black cartoonist in San Francisco caught between the desire to “keep it light” in his comics and to talk about his own lived experiences. Portrayed by Lamorne Morris, Keith’s character — named “Keef” in the show — has a sudden, drastic shift in worldview after an incident of being profiled by San Francisco police.
“He has this run-in with the cops that sort of awakens his activism in a way. It awakens his third eye,” Knight said.
Keith said that incident was directly inspired by an experience in his own life that occurred 20 years ago, when San Francisco police mistakenly profiled him for a reported robber. In the show, this incident results in Morris’ character awakening a “third eye” that allows him to see the world in new ways and gradually prompts him to be more outspoken about his experiences.
Knight said Keef's “third eye” is a metaphor for trauma that speaks directly to the way peoples’ lives are affected by altercations with police, even those that don’t result in physical brutality.
“Not even being injured by them physically, but just to know the idea that your number could come up at any time,” Knight said.
Despite dealing with themes of police brutality, racism and trauma, the show was designed to be mostly light and comedic in tone. Knight said he believes this balance is important for allowing people to receive and accept challenging messages.