I attended Afropunk this past weekend and fell in love with it. The annual festival at Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn may seem like any other festival from the outside — lines of food trucks, music stages, t-shirt vendors, and corporate sponsors, but as I strolled through the space, it was clear that Afropunk wasn’t going to be your typical alcohol-fueled summer event.
Even after a couple days, I find myself struggling to describe the festival, which many at the festival would likely tell me: “That’s the point!” so here’s a quick blurb about Afropunk from their own website:
Described by the New York Times as “the most multicultural festival in the US,” the word AFROPUNK itself has become synonymous with open-minded, non-conforming and unconventional, placing the institution at the epicenter of urban culture inspired by alternative music. Adamant in promoting diversity, the festival stage is always studded with music’s most distinct acts.
At the risk of sounding cheesy, Afropunk’s mission of openness is palpable at the festival. There is definitely a collective vibe of enjoyment, creative expression, individual style, and community. There isn’t any feeling of judgement or a group of raucous guys walking around like they owned the place. No need to be concerned about what you’re wearing — the weirder, the more colorful, the better. In fact, Afropunk is known for it’s fashion sense. I’ll let The Village Voice describe the scene you can expect from Afropunk:
Music fests are always an excuse for sexy people to showcase their tendency to dress like the smokingly hot, self-important urbanites they are. Afro Punk’s attendees were scintillating for the most part, but they weren’t the frathouse beer-pongin’ beauties we see at Coachella. There was some real style and class poppin’ out there on the field.
And it was expression without alcohol. If here was alcohol at Afropunk, it wasn’t needed to be yourself, smile dance, and have a fucking good time. In fact, alcohol would likely disrupt what’s great about the Afropunk.
Here’s another great quote from Janelle Monae, whom has performed at Afropunk three times:
“Especially when you’re speaking about black music and black artists, it’s extremely important that people know that we’re not all monolithic, that we don’t all think the same,” she said. Afro-Punk is “not extremely exclusive, and it’s welcoming of other cultures,” she said, adding, “It’s a place for people to be themselves.”
I am heavily invested in the concepts of race and culture, I also believe in making life work for you; playing the cards you were dealt, so Afropunk is one of those rare settings that really speaks to that life philosophy. Afropunk is built on giving a space to those that stray from the regular – the hetero-normative, white-picket fence, pop culture set.
Still, no doubt, Afropunk would welcome them with open arms, too.