If you didn’t make it to AfroPunk in Brooklyn this year, and if you’ve never been, then here’s a high production value official promo video re-cap to show you what all the fuss is about:
But this more to it than this video allows.
Firstly, it’s a highly diverse affair. I can’t stress how diverse the crowds were that came out, and that represented on stage. From inner city club kids from New Jersey to suburban Long Island folk rockers we got a cross section of what blackness really is in the New York area, and perhaps America in general — beyond what the mainstream media wants you to believe — and that’s a great thing that I think should be celebrated.
Dutty Artz got to add to that diversity when Africa Latina was asked to DJ between Tamara-Kali, Straight Line Stitch, and Fishbone (amazing, right?). Here’s a clip from our first set during the day:
Fun crowd, but nothing compares to the reaction that legends Bad Brains got out of their fans:
Fashion is also an important part of the weekend, some would even say it has become the central focus of the weekend. And while some may decry the lack of attention on the actual music (especially Punk music) as I have in the past, I do see it as an important form of self-expression that adds to the excitement of the whole affair. There was plenty of African print and accessories, and probably most of all, it’s a celebration of African hair. It reminded me of a twisted version of the African picnics I used to frequent with my family as a child, one of the few places in America where I know I could wear my African cultural pride loud and proud. Black people are beautiful, and rarely get to show off their beauty on their own terms, in public, for free, open to everyone, like this:
Honestly, this is the kind of environment I would want my kids to experience at a young age — one that I hope would help form their sense of self.
However, I am torn about AfroPunk for many reasons, I was the first year I went. Firstly, because it’s an event organized and sponsored by corporate America, and much of the punk ethos fights against that. But also because there seems to be, for lack of better words, a class consciousness missing amongst young Black Americans — a couple generations after civil rights, the crack 80’s, and the gang 90’s — currently dealing with their own issues such as police brutality and displacement by gentrification. But maybe that’s also what punk was initially about for early innovators such as Death (during immediate post-civil rights era Detroit), Bad Brains (during the crack 80’s in D.C.), and Fishbone (during the gang 90’s in L.A.) — fighting against (escaping?) the generalizing labels of mainstream America? #MikeBrown did see to ring out quite a bit during the day, but it also does everywhere I go in New York. It did in Harlem when I went to a casting call for black males the other day. Perhaps I want more from my generation than just… freedom through individual style? But, I guess we all also need time to celebrate and escape. What does it feel like to be part of a movement anyway? There’s something about being in a field full of beautiful, creative, and self-loving black people… a place where blackness is acknowledged for all the range of cultural influence it has in the U.S. I could feel the love of blackness that day, and was grateful for the moments to just sit back and take it in… until on my way out, when I was brought back to reality by a heavy police presence and roving paddy wagon.