This weekend, the AFROPUNK Festival will take over Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn, New York. It was James Spooner’s 2003 documentary, “Afro-Punk”–a film that spotlighted experiences of black youth when feeling out of place in the punk scene–that inspired this safe haven of self-expression for the younger generation.
For the past 12 years, no other fest has grown richer in its cultural foundation than this one. What debuted on a smaller scale in 2005, now takes over five major cities (nationally and internationally), with talks of additional cities joining the lineup! Now, close to 70,000 attend AFROPUNK Brooklyn to soak up the incredibly eclectic range of live performances and good vibes. Upon entering, you're fully consumed by the beauty in everyone surrounding you. There are vivid colors and prints, fun hairstyles, offbeat outfits; everything one would expect, so there's no let down in that area.
Some could argue that the fest’s original purpose has been watered down in order to grow globally and appeal to a wider audience. Still, with its expansion, AFROPUNK maintains authenticity and a close-knit sentiment. Even just getting to the venue requires a walk through the neighborhood’s housing projects--immediately giving you a warm sense of community.
Also, a General Admission ticket won’t leave you living check-to-check for the rest of the year; middle fingers up to fests that require a payment plan. This leaves extra cash in your pocket to spend at the Spinthrift Market, a well-respected and curated roundup of some of the city’s most unique (and independent) businesses. Then there’s the Bites & Beats Food Festival, known as “an event within an event." It’s basically every type of food imaginable from around the world, all huddled in one space.
Beyond the food, art, and shopping, there’s Battle for the Streets–a 2-day skateboard competition–and above all… the music. The lineup features a heavy amount of Jazz, Soul, Hip Hop, and Funk. From legends like George Clinton and Bad Brains to new artists, Sampha and Nao, fest-goers are exposed to a multitude of sounds. This year, some of the hottest names in the game are showing up. Solange, SZA, Anderson .Paak, Willow Smith, and Dizzee Rascal are just a few of everybody's favorites, and if anyone embodies the heart of AFROPUNK, it's them.
AFROPUNK goes beyond being an annual music festival nestled on a spot of grass just south of Flushing Avenue. It’s a celebration of sounds and art. It’s dedication to black people and black culture. It’s props to the authentic and imaginative. It’s a movement for the soul and freedom to be yourself. It is, straight up, one of the most important festivals you will experience all year.
For more info, visit AFROPUNK's site here.
Photo by: Tyler Joe for ELLE