You might not have heard, but there's something special that happens every August in Brooklyn that has caught the attention of music fans, music festival fans, culture vultures and lovers of all forms of individuality. It's called Afropunk. Or AfroPunk. Or is it AFROPUNK?
Either way, Afropunk is a weekend festival celebrating all things, concepts and people of the African Diaspora that doesn't quite fit in with the popular narrative of what it means to be someone of African descent in this topsy turvy world. And although it began as a small community event, it has grown into a global sensation. This year alone, Afropunk will take place on 3 different continents for the first time: North America (Brooklyn, Atlanta), Europe (Paris, London), and Africa (Johannesburg). The Johannesburg show is a new addition to the rotation, and just as London had their first show last year, hopefully, the Jo'burg event will become a permanent part of the Afropunk community.
This year was my first venture out to the festival, and although I only attended on Saturday, it was enough to teach me that I wanted to make it a permanent fixture on my social calendar as well.
Rather than bore you with large swathes of text about everything I saw and did, I thought a photo (and video) essay would do the experience better justice. So, save for the captions -- you know I can't resist context -- here's a visual stroll through my day at Afropunk.
As usual, to see a larger version of each image, simply click on the photo and gaze away.
First photo of the event from the other side of the gate was this joyful face.
The Free Black Women's Library table was set up to let everyone know about the exchange library in the city.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art had a whole corner of the Red stage area, which included this great chalk mural everyone was encouraged to add to. The theme: "Why Does Art Matter?"
Murjani Holmes used her creative corner to show off her skills with a paintbrush and love for artistic expression (and Black Panther). Visit her site to see more of her work: murjart.com
Another chalk addition makes its way onto the wall, this time from above and below.
The Red stage at Afropunk featured great acts like Leikeli47, who was joined on stage at one point by the Brooklyn United Marching Band. This is the closest I could get to the stage. It was that packed.
My small contribution to the chalk mural: "Art is our soul trying to tell us something."
After the Red stage area became too crowded for me to navigate, I decided to head over to the Pink stage. The Pink stage features the majority of the Punk rock acts, like Atlanta's Pay To Cum. The lead singer is a little shy on the mic when he's not singing, but when he threw himself into the lyrics, the intensity drew a crowd real quick.
From Punk rockers to skater boys, the skate park at the back of the Pink stage area was where most of us went to enjoy the antics and smiles of the skateboarding crews who came out for good music and friendly competition.
Pure Disgust is a popular Punk rock group out of Washington, D.C., who performed their second-to-last show at Afropunk this year. The announcement put a bit of a damper on their set, but it didn't stop their fans from slam dancing to their heart's content.
After getting my Punk on, I needed to mellow out a bit. So I made my way over to the Gold stage, grabbed a Sprite from the drink booth, laid out my colorful red blanket, and took in the scene before the one and only Macy Gray graced the stage.
When Afropunk announced that Macy Gray would be performing at this year's festival, I knew I would have to buy a ticket for whichever day she was scheduled for. I've adored her for almost 20 years, and she's still as amazing as ever.
Waiting on our food from the Excell Kingston Eatery (they ran out of Jamaican patties -- big shock!), I laughed and joked with this lovely lady while watching the inimitable Soul II Soul perform their first number on stage. She had such a pretty smile I could not not snap a photo.
Now what can you say about that!? This brother was committed to the event like no other.
Because every counter-culture movement has a mission, on this night, Afropunk kept it simple ... and yet spoke volumes.
And overall, what did I take away from my day out at the premier summer festival known as Afropunk? It's this: Expression and acceptance comes in all shapes and sizes, but regardless of why so many came together on that day and whether or not we agree on every issue, the sense of community that binds us is strong and vibrant enough for all to join, enjoy and grow.