When I think of summertime, the first thing that comes to my mind is concerts and what tickets I can score before they’re all sold out. Thankfully, AfroPunk Fest is the best end of summer music festival to see all of your favorite artists, one last time before the sun sets early and the weather turns chilly. This years line up is a collection of fierce, unapologetically black artists featuring Brooklyn native Joey Badass, Harlems princess Teyana Taylor, Rapper/Producer Flying Lotus, Vince Staples, Baby Tate, the absolutely Iconic Durand Bernarr and more.
afro punk festival
AFROPUNKFest 2023 is brought to you live, from Saturday August 26th and Sunday August 27th; celebrating a weekend of The Circus of Soul. Afro Punk fest has been a Brooklyn staple since 2005, bringing together the community with light, love and music. This years Afro Punk Fest is bigger than ever, since its return post pandemic. AFROPUNK Fest is always held at Commodore Barry Park, but this year, they have changed locations to Green-point Brooklyn’s Skyline Drive-in theatre by the water. As a Brooklyn native, I’ve grown up each year excited to attend the festival, but this year, as the 25 year old fashionista writer that I’ve become, I had the opportunity to cover it as media and press. My younger self would be so proud, my current self is leaping for joy and I can’t wait to tell you guys all about this 2 day affair!
AFROPUNKFest is a festival of music, fashion and unapologetic blackness. Every year, attendees dress up in the most unique outfits matching the theme of the festival. The Circus of Soul is this years theme and it was drawn out perfectly. There is beauty and there is pain in the black community when it comes to the word “Circus”. It has multiple definitions but I had the pleasure of speaking with Sean G, Creative Director ofAFROPUNK, and his inspiration for the theme was paying homage to celebrating our blackness. “The circus, on one hand, has a dark side to it, and we wanted to do something,AFROPUNK, by exploring what that means to us. In history, black people during slavery were sold and showcased in the circus as freaks. For example, the first black Albino twins, they were showcased as the “men from mars”, now in 2023, celebrities such as Winnie Harlow are now praised for her skin discoloration. AFROPUNK and I explored how the blackness from white eyes, is this fear and fascination of black people, and how white supremacy objectified and put us on display, as the detriment to ourselves, but overtime we found a way to take our power back and become not the slaves, but the masters, and come to celebrate our “freakiness”, our “oddness” and let the freak show fly”. This is a powerful quote and give us the true essence of what AFROPUNK Festival truly is about and how we can continue to take up black power in spaces created specifically for us and by us.
AFROPUNKFest went full out on the circus theme and so did the attendees. Once you walked in, the layout of the festival reminded me of the twists and turns in a carnival, with the excitement behind every corner. There were stilt walkers, vendors and performers oh my! The outfits were my favorite part because of how committed and creative everyone was. There were people painted in gold, hair as big as the sky , multiple colors, outfits handmade and bejeweled with the brightest jewels I’ve ever seen, it was so hard to choose a favorite. AFROPUNK Fest is the safe space meant for creativity and self expression. Since 2005, the festivals looks of the attendees have elevated to the most beautiful and authentic fashions I’ve seen. Fashion outside of festivals are a bit more laid back, but the boldness of the attendees was a 100/10 for me. It’s admirable how everyone has their own unique fashion sense because nothing looked the same, there wasn’t one outfit that was similar to another, which is what I craved! For more on fashion at AFROPUNK Fest, I created a reel on @Theknockturnal instagram page and interviews with attendees and performers.
@Bambiix2 on Instagram http://instagram.com/bambiix2
The creativity is remarkable, iconic and legendary. It’s so impressive how these “costumes” attendees dedicate their time to get every last detail right and with a story that goes behind it. For example, I had the pleasure of speaking with Jamal, as seen below in Red. His story was so beautiful of the theme behind his red bridal dress. “My look is red, because its my favorite color, its also my father and lovers favorite color, who both have unfortunately passed away. This is a look that is honoring my love and is the wedding that I never got to have” Jamal tells me emotionally. Wow. Hearing that, made me just want to break down and we hugged for a very long time, not saying a word, only exchanging each others embrace and love. This, love, is what AFROPUNK is about.
My angle for approaching all of the fabulous attendees altering capturing their fabulous outfits, is to ask them what black joy means to you. There is so much going on in this world and in our daily lives that we forget to have some fun or let our hair down for a bit, and that is why so many people love coming to AFROPUNK Fest for a weekend of pure joy and excitement; a stop in normal day life. Black joy is crucial and should be celebrated each chance we get. This wonderful woman in this African inspired outfit stated “black joy is power, black joy is melanin, and unity”. Another attendee, Lew Caine stated “ black joy is this! When you are around your people, spreading love, giving back, elevating and just having a good time.” Shauna Grey, Global head of Development at AFROPUNK and she shared her meaning of Black joy. “ Black joy is watching everyone here have pure teeth while smiling, the babies walking around and those individuals fully exposed in their clothes without fear of being judged and thats black joy, just happiness without fear. Caroline Wanga, The President and CEO of Essence Magazine stopped by to talk to me backstage, as Baby Tate was performing, and she shared her meaning of black joy. “I think black joy is freedom, when we have to stop worrying about making black accommodate everybody else”. For more interviews on black joy, check out my reel on @Theknockturnal instagram and my personal http://instagram.com/itsveronikacollins. AFROPUNK fest’23 has been one for the books and stay tuned for more coverage on the festival in my next article.
Afro Punk Festival is quickly becoming one of the most popular east coast music festivals after hosting its yearly gathering in Brooklyn, New York for over ten years.
This year, the two day event took place August 27th-28th and featured artists and bands from The Internet, Bad Brains, and Tyler the Creator to Janelle Monae, Ice Cube, and Living Color.
From the eclectic fashion attire of the attendees to the fantastic, though lesser known, artists gracing the stage, attending Afro Punk is a wonderland for care-free individuals looking to embrace their individuality and freedom to live outside of the box. All of this goes hand-in-hand with the ability to enjoy the many hues of the Black and Brown faces around without concern for stereotyping or judgment.
As a matter of fact, Afro Punk’s rules are no sexism, no racism, no ableism, no ageism, no homophobia, no fatphobia, no transphobia, no hatefulness.
Basically, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t come to Afro Punk.
The two day event is full of happy individuals wanting to enjoy themselves in ways that they might not be able to when faced with the expectations and judgment of the world outside of Commodore Barry Park.
Outside of having a safe space to be oneself, the event also boasts of an amazing line up. Probably the most anticipated guest of Sunday night was Janelle Monae who gave a dazzling performance in her signature black and white get up with accompanying bow-tie. Monae, who is no stranger to Afro Punk and has apparently been there since its beginnings, graced the Red Stage on day two and drew a crowd so deep, growing wings and flying felt like the only way to grab a glimpse of the “Hell You Talm Bout” singer’s flowing faux-fur shawl or her flawless Prince tribute.
In-between performances, DJs played their sets while people swirled, wined, popped, locked, nae-naed, stanky legged, and whatever else the music called for while the cool breeze bounced the myriad of kinky-curly tresses swaying across the landscape. And while others moved and grooved on the grass, some made their way around the vendor booths to check out all of the unique items sold by Black owned businesses, get their arms “marbled” with colorful swirls, catch some free promotional items, or have their souls painted across their bodies by Beyoncé’s Lemonade artist Laolu Senbanjo.
Afro Punk Festival 2016 proved, once again, to be one of the most lit, safe zones for people of color (and anyone who wants to simply enjoy good people, good music, and a good life).