Applause for Afropunk’s Artistry and Activism
On August 26 and 27, 2017, Afropunk called together a fantastic showcase of fashion, music, activism, and community. This year’s Brooklyn festival , held once again at Commodore Barry Park, emphasized activism, resistance, and solidarity. Musicians, artists, hosts, poets, signage all called for freedom, equality, and action.
The Black Stage hosted exciting smaller acts to discover all weekend long. DJ Anais B came all the way from Paris , spinning many heavyweight female artists like Lil’ Kim, Jill Scott and Missy Elliot. Late Sunday, the breakout rapper, singer and visual artist Kamau took the Black Stage just as the sun began to set. Kamau made a big splash at Afropunk this year when he closed his set with single “PohLease,” off of his recent EP, A Gorgeous Fortune, a mind-bending song discussing police brutality. At the end, when he called for a moment of silence and thrust his fist up in the air, thousands of Afropunks raised their fists with him.
Between the adjacent Red and Green stages, headliners such as SZA, Solange Knowles, Protege, Simba, Michael Kiwanuka, and Gary Coleman performed all weekend. Pedestrians congested the walkway between these two main stages, at times creating an impenetrable wall of people, and potentially a fire hazard. The Solange and SZA shows drew massive crowds, onlookers packed in like sardines. The Gold Stage, on the other hand, felt spacious and hosted acts like Macy Gray, The Cool Kids, and Sango.
Afropunk’s culture grows and develops to create a more powerful and inspiring event every year, becoming a more elaborate and diverse display of personality and history. The people, the hair, the clothes, the food all represent a raw unapologetic celebration of black culture in all its many forms. The scene was filled with lots of mesh tops, studs, vibrant patterns, headdresses, wigs, disco jumpsuits, nipples and more. Pop-up Braiding, Body Painting, Barber Shops, and Nail Salons represent just a fraction of the opportunities for festival goers to deck themselves out.
While Afropunk has been instrumental in cultivating Brooklyn’s expanding music and cultural horizons since its beginnings in 2005, this year’s installment was marked by a lack of proper operational organization and security inside the gates. Because of this, there was a potential for tragic occurrences, due to overcrowding, a lack of signage and directions for festival attendees , when going from one stage to another. We applaud Afropunk’s success and its expansion into other locations around the globe, but urge Afropunk’s organizers to take steps to improve the fan experience in Brooklyn next year, with safety high up on the priority list.