The free, two-day affair made its triumphant return over the weekend after a freak hurricane made landfall in New York City last year. Black skaters, artists, hip-hop heads, and self-described nerds joined some of the industry’s most celebrated alternative black singers like Erykah Badu and Janelle Monaé at what’s become one of the city’s premiere summer music showcases. And all of it leads to the question: Has being black and different sorta become the norm?
Of course, it depends on who you ask — and where you ask the question. But the absence of an affirming environment for black kids who grew up reading comic books, wearing Converse, and standing out at punk rock shows is what led to Afropunk’s development in the first place. In 2003, music industry veteran Matthew Morgan teamed up with writer and director James Spooner to produce the film Afro-Punk, a documentary that followed a handful of black folks in the punk scene. The point of the film wasn’t just to show their trials and tribulations, but to showcase their presence as legit participants in, if not originators of, punk, hardcore, and metal scenes across the diaspora.
The film became something of a cult classic. “Alternative urban kids across the nation (and across the globe) who felt like outsiders discovered they were actually the core of a boldly innovative, fast-growing community,” according to Afro-Punk’s website. In 2005, that explosion of energy led to the first Afro-Punk music festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
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