By: Kristin Helf, Columnist
On the weekend of August 22, people from all around the country came together in the oldest park in Brooklyn to celebrate at what the New York Times called “the most multicultural festival in the US.”
Just a few weeks from now, on October 3, it’ll happen again in Atlanta. The festival? AFROPUNK 2015.
In case you’re unfamiliar, Afropunk is exactly what the name implies: A genre of music (specifically of a punk or hardcore nature) where many bands in the scene are made up of only black musicians. The lyrics touch on a wide variety of themes, as all music does, but a topic that consistently arises is the experience of being black in America.
The Afropunk festival was founded in 2002, a year before James Spooner’s award-winning documentary “Afro-Punk” was released, which chronicled the lives of black punks and explored the part race plays in a genre of music that’s been predominantly white for decades.
Many of those interviewed talk about the struggles of being the only black person at shows, interracial dating and the exile they face from black and white communities alike.
In the documentary, singer-songwriter Tamar-kali Brown describes her experience being black in America as, “Being caught in a system that you can’t identify with, that you don’t support…[And] that’s the true energy of what punk is.”
Punk rock proves to be more than “California, everybody is white and skateboarding,” as described in the documentary “Afro-Punk.” Brown asks, why is Sid Vicious the poster person for punk?
It maintains that Nina Simone, although not often heralded as such, is one of the most punk individuals in history.
What’s been underground for years is slowly rising to the surface, as the festival has garnered more corporate sponsors than ever before—Doc Martens, Coors Light, MAC Cosmetics and Red Bull just to name a few. Totally not punk. However, more sponsors means the festival and genre as a whole are gaining more popularity—and the social and political awareness that Afropunk celebrates is punk as hell.
Basically, just watch Afro-Punk and listen to the band Bad Brains.