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AFROPUNK 2016: Identity at Full Volume

Beauty. Expression. Fierceness. Hope. Individuality. Solidarity. Pride. Resolution. ...Power.

MEANS honors the Real Deal. Everybody take notes...

A musical showcase of punk, funk and soul and an unbridled parade of cultural pride took front seat at the Afropunk Festival this past weekend in Brooklyn’s Commodore Barry Park.

Drawing a crowd of more than 60,000 people, the festival– a self-described “safe zone” for creative expression– also has become a sounding board for socio-political issues affecting the black community...

… Per tradition, all four stages at Afropunk were flanked with banners declaring the ground rules: No Racism, No Fatphobia, No Homophobia, No Hatefulness… Midway through a headbanging rendition of ‘Fool For You,’ singer-songwriter and headliner CeeLo Green asked the crowd, “Are we all feeling equal?”..

credit: J. Boogie for BK Reader

A fixture at every Afropunk, Activism Row showcased grassroots nonprofits that attempt to solve urgent community problems. In a bid to up voter participation at this year’s presidential election, one nonprofit called HeadCount teamed up with Toronto-based artist Oluseye to encourage Afropunk attendees register to vote if they hadn’t already done so.

The artist was at work on a live wall mural featuring the faces of Afropunk attendees – but only registered voters would be photographed and added to the wall. Those who weren’t were directed to sign up online at the HeadCount booth on Activism Row.

Artist Oluseye credit: BK Reader

“This is here to remind us that your vote has power and even though you’re here to party and have a good time, there’s also this social empowerment aspect to why we’re here and what our presence here means,” Oluseye said.

Major brands made an appearance alongside the local mom-and-pops: ZipCar had a fenced-off arena where people could ride adult tricycles around a chalk circuit. Toyota, meanwhile, offered Afropunk attendees the chance to create their own mix CD featuring live soundtracks from the day’s music acts.

Dana Distortion for Rolling Stone

“It’s really about unity – and people of all races and from different places finding a community here,” said Chloe Seabrook, a resident of Park Slope, attending Afropunk for the first time.

Chico Leo, host of geek culture podcast Fanbros, said that Afropunk 2016 was an excellent platform to reach their fans. Discussing pop culture from the perspective of underrepresented voices, the podcasts began from this premise: “Why aren’t there any black zombies on The Walking Dead?”

“We’ve had the chance to meet some of our listeners here,” said Leo, “and through our fans we now have a community of people who openly talk about the lack of representation [of African-Americans] in the media and so many other issues.”

Overall, it’s clear that Afropunk Fest has become the new standard bearer for people of African descent of what it means to push back on societal norms, introduce an entirely new set of rules and– let’s not forget– create the soundtrack to bang them!

Long live counter-culture!

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