“Tales From The Kraka Tower” – A New Webseries About Academia

Scene from Episode 1 ("Conditionally Accepted") of "Tales from Kraka Tower" - a new webseries

Scene from Episode 1 of Tales from Kraka Tower
Dr. Kimball is fascinated with Lakisha’s hair.

Many marginalized scholars are beginning to break the silence that surrounds the experience of being “conditionally accepted” within academia.  There are books, edited volumes, and many blogs on the prejudice, discrimination, harassment, isolation, tokenism, exclusion, and invisibility that too many marginalized scholars have experienced first-hand.

The experience of being conditionally accepted in academia is now featured via a new medium: a webseries.  Tales From The Kraka Tower is a new satirical online show, in the vein of Awkward Black Girl and My Gimpy Life, that gives a glimpse into the troubling experiences of marginalized graduate students. The show is a satire about the way “diversity” operates in higher education.

Scene from Episode 1 ("Conditionally Accepted") of "Tales from Kraka Tower" - a new webseries

Scene from Episode 1 of Tales from Kraka Tower
Lakisha (sort of) meets Sam in the elevator.

The series follows Lakisha Wisneiwski (the series’s main character) as she begins her journey through graduate school in the Diversity Department at Kraka University.  Specifically, Lakisha faces overt racism and sexism in graduate school, a place where progressive intellectualism is supposed to be fostered. At Kraka U, those who are labeled “diverse” have to face hostility and isolation. As Sarah Ahmed, author of On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life says, “Institutional whiteness can be reproduced through the logic of diversity.”

Many of the stories in this satire are based on *real* stories of sexism, racism, ableism, and other dimensions of prejudice and discrimination in academia.  The first episode, “Conditionally Accepted,” (named in honor of this blog!) highlights the way diversity and inclusion in higher education often translates into tokenism.  Subsequent episodes will be inspired and titled after books that critique mainstream, uncritical ideas of diversity (e.g., Presumed Incompetent).

Check out the first episode below!

Background

The show’s creator, Aphrodite Kocieda, a MA student at USF, decided against using the term “ivory tower,” instead referring to it as “Kraka tower” to highlight the white-centric foundation of the academy.  Additionally, she wanted to continue to politicize the word “cracker,” especially after the slaying of Florida teen, Trayvon Martin. During George Zimmerman’s trial, the white defense lawyers for Zimmerman attempted to equate the word “cracker” to “nigger” after Rachel Jeantel stated that Martin called Zimmerman a “creepy ass cracka.”

Aphrodite noted that she had been planning to create this show for over a year because she was frustrated with the overall whiteness of the academy, and had heard stories from other minoritized individuals in the academy who were sick and tired of having to walk on egg shells when discussing their overt exclusion.  Unfortunately, she notes, some minoritized populations have to labor harder in the ivory tower just to emotionally make it through.  Oftentimes, the quest to get more “diverse” bodies on campus translates to tokenism.

Through Tales from the Kraka Tower, Aphrodite wants to contribute to the ongoing conversation about minority exclusion on college campuses. We’ve seen protests at the University of Michigan, as well as the video from the UCLA law students who unfortunately, but not surprisingly, received racist hate mail because of their outspoken views. More recently, minoritized students at Harvard were featured in a photographic protest piece describing racist comments that have been said to them.  We also had the release of the film Dear White People at Sundance.

Be sure to stay tuned for Episode 2, “Dr. Kimball’s Diversity Class”!