So it’s already been 4 weeks since classes first started, and I’m still living in the magic that was AFROPUNK. It was pure and utter madness and everything I could have ever dreamt of. I was immersed in sounds of music coming from every different angle. People’s bright smiles and laugher. The smells of Caribbean food, BBQ, and fresh empanadas.
And the fashion! The fashion was just incredible. I was surrounded by beautiful brown skinned people, with “tribal” inspired face paint, and dressed head-to-toe in African inspired attire. There were vibrant orange and red dashikis, people in overalls and head wraps, and women draped in bright kente cloth and big, bold jewelry. One women who I was style-stuck by was wearing an intricately designed green and black African print pant suit. She paired the outfit with a clear, medium-sized brief case. To top it off, she had a striking look: a shaved head and several piercings. She was just the coolest! There were so many stunning looks throughout the entire weekend.
It was a beautiful feeling to be amongst so many creative young people who were brought together for the love of Black music and art. Once I entered the venue sight, Commodore Park in Brooklyn, I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I was at Woodstock, but for African diaspora and African American youth. There was this feeling that we were participating in some kind of historical, cultural explosion with the combination of phenomenal performers, the political and social justice demonstrations, educational dialogues, and the general collectivist energy. People were free.
The artist who really embodied this Black alternative culture was whom I was most excited to see perform. It was none other than the ever fabulous, Grace Jones. I grew up listening to Grace Jones as my mom is a huge fan of hers. There are no words in the English language that can really describe how amazing her performance was. Her flawless confidence, powerful vocals, and out-of-this-world costumes made for one of the most memorable experiences of my life. For me, it really made AFROPUNK 2015 what it was. But it was also incredible seeing Lauryn Hill, Lenny Kravitz, Jesse Boykins iii, SZA, and many more.
The name AFROPUNK really captures the culture of the festival and its attendees. There is a strong sense of rebellious, revolutionary punk-rock attitude with an African diaspora flavor. It symbolizes Black Alternative culture. The article by Aaron Barksdale entitled, “AFROPUNK Is More Than A Festival, It’s A Part Of Black Culture”, captures a lot of what I experienced. Barksdale refers to Matthew Morgan, one of the founders of the festival, by saying, “He came to America in 2000 to continue his work with these kinds of musicians: black artists whose style tended to lie outside mainstream ideas of how black music was supposed to sound or look.” Morgan initially wanted the festival to be for those who don’t feel as though they fall into the stereotypical category of Black identity. Those who are in the “other” category. Many people criticize the festival for not being as “punk” as it used to be because of the mostly mainstream artists that they now feature. But I definitely don’t agree. As an African diaspora, third-culture, self-determining individual who never quite felt a connection to the stereotypical interpretation of American Black culture, I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be. Morgan is quoted saying,
‘”AFROPUNK is a mindset… it’s not a musical genre”… “We exist to be a part of what is 360 degrees of blackness”… “It’s an alternative view on our culture and music and things that are important to us.”’ (Barksdale)
In this quote, Morgan is speaking to the transformation of Black identity. He addressing the opportunity for Black culture to be more than what we usually see represented in movies, on TV, or through the media. Of course I think there has always been people rebelling against the usual representation of Black culture, but I think AFROPUNK has become the vehicle to empower those who fit in this evolving culture.
If you missed the festival this year, I strongly suggest trying to make it in the future. The tickets are a little painful on the pocket but there are community service initiatives you can be a part of to earn a ticket as well as other opportunities. As for now, enjoy some of the pictures and the video I’ve included in my post and get hip!