“Had any people, anywhere ever been as sprawling and beautiful as us?”
One year ago, during the last weekend of August 2015, I sat in awe of black people, our beauty, our magic, our hair, our style, our music, our culture, our vastness. For 3 days and 2 nights, I marveled at the diaspora that connects us all and brought us all to this one moment of poetry.
Afropunk is a movement that started with a 2003 documentary to spotlight black fringe culture, particularly black folks who were interested in punk rock music and found themselves as the one lone person of colour in every mosh pit. These black punkers identified with the anger, angst, the ‘fuck the police’ politics, and the aesthetic, with many feeling that punk rock IS black music at its core. After all, it’s part rock n roll, invented by black people (a la Chuck Berry). And while the fashion with its piercings and wild hairstyles may have taken on a Eurocentric slant, as pointed out by Tamar-Kali in the documentary, this look began ‘in the bush’.
Evolving and escaping one definition, Afropunk now feels to me like a platform for celebrating ALL black culture. Their digital presence is a space that highlights black music, celebrates black hair, shines a light on black issues, and generally challenges their readers and watchers to see the black world and thus themselves differently. The annual Afropunk festival brings this entire wondrous mystic to one park for one weekend in Brooklyn.
When the lineup was announced earlier in the year, it took me all of four seconds to message one of my closest friends to say, ‘Meet me in Brooklyn?’ Seeing that Grace Jones would be performing was all that was needed to convince DeAna – she feels a cosmic connection to Grace, her birthday twin, and is always posting about this strange goddess. And me, well I was ALLLLLLLL up in my excitement about Miss Lauryn Hill and (sigh of pleasure) Lenny Kravitz!!!!!!!!!!!!
And both of us have a deep deep love affair with Brooklyn.
It started a couple years ago. DeAna and I had reconnected – she’d grown up in Bermuda but lives in Chicago now and my son’s football tournament took my husband and I to her neck of the woods. You wonder, after all these years apart and living completely different lives, would there still be genuine friendship? There was.
So the following year, 2013, I proposed a trip to New York as she’d never been. I’ve been more times than I can count – but always staying in Manhattan and never venturing out to other boroughs. We wanted to both experience something new. So chose Brooklyn. (Or did it choose us?)
A weekend of flea markets, cocktails, grilled corn, black owned businesses, partying, live music, and a bomb-ass photography shoot to commemorate our reconnection made us KNOW that we had found some new voodoo. (Mm-hmm yes… I did indeed hire a photographer to follow us around like paparazzi and the result was pure gah-geous shenangians.)
I have been back to Brooklyn a few times, but not with DeAna. There could be no better verse two for us than a weekend with Grace and Lauryn and Lenny. We booked the same Bed-Stuy apartment we’d stayed at in 2013 because … well, that’s OUR apartment and our whole spirit animal relationship with this city started there. The guys hollering at us and the bartender mocking my Bermudian accent (…all night…. #sideye) and that other spot where ace girl was selling some tuna salad that kept DeAna satiated after long nights of partying… that’s all on this block. So yeah, we are just gonna hang up all our 22 dresses, and lay out our jewelry and shoes.
Because we may not RESIDE there… but we sure as hell LIVE there.
(Read Part II and Part III)