“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.
Our entire plan was based around the Saturday and Sunday festival. There was zero else on the itinerary until a few days before departure, when I got an email from the Afropunk Gods saying that the out-of-our-price-range opening Fancy Dress Fundraising Ball on the Friday night was now well within our range. They were releasing a small amount of $20 tickets. WHHHAAAATTT?????!!! *giddy* To be honest we had no idea what to expect of this event. There was very little information, but what we did know was that Grace Jones was going to perform. *sings in Aaron Neville Voice * and that’s all I need to knowwwww….
So we now had Friday night, and then two full days of black spiritual wonderment.
Aside fashion moment: What does Fancy Dress mean to you? Because in these parts it means costume, so I was well torn! In any event, I decided to do full pomp and circumstance a la the annual Peppercorn Ceremony, complete with Bermuda-made gold fascinator. DeAna went for African Queen Glam. And of course, we punked our fros as much as possible.
Folks were looking BANANAS. That’s the first thing. The gorgeousness and creativity of style was on full display so I was glad I’d put in an effort. The second we arrived a photographer asked to snap our picture sooooo *smug face*
And second, the full mantra of AfroPunk was on display from JUMP, with massive banners framing the stage and letting folks be informed that under no circumstances would hatefulness of any kind be accepted. LOVING that space of genuine inclusiveness and celebration of diversity that is oh-soooo-rare!
We got there in time to hear only one opening act, Cakes Da Killa. I’m sure he doesn’t want to be DEFINED as a gay rapper, but honestly, that was a new narrative for me and I appreciated it! I was at the time waiting in the wine line (of course), which took quite some time, but what I could hear was very Lil Kim esque, with some raw raunch. (And on a note about the wine, it’s called Stacks and comes in stacks… my confusion quickly made way to excitement.)
BUT let’s face it, wine and gay rap aside, we were there for GRACE! I’m not going to pretend that I have always been this loyal Grace Jones follower. I know of her, I like the few songs I know of hers, and she was in Boomerang.
That was the extent of my Grace scrapbook.
And then…. she came down out of the dark clouds wearing naught but a corset and body paint and 18 different headdresses, and she is 67, and ‘Nightclubbing’, and she is being carried through the audience on a man’s shoulders, and there is a pole on stage and on that pole there is a man doing insane moves, and she is in a single beam of light, and ‘pull up to my bumper baby in a long black limousine’, and she is draped over some sort of sky stage and now she isn’t on stage but her deep husky voice is laughing from the back where she is putting on a sparkly skull mask and ‘My Jamaican guy’… and… and … and… *breathless*
For an hour she had us enthralled. DeAna was in near tears and we all pressed closer and closer to the stage, hoping some of Grace’s sweat would drip on us and make us immortal too. Maybe a hair of her head will land on my face and remove that blemish and create the ability in me to hula-hoop while singing for a good 10 minutes. When she came close to me being carried like a goddess I reached up and grabbed for her boob… I mean hand, and ohmigosh. I’m pretty sure my life will never be the same.
She introduced us to her newest song, which she claims is ready to perform but not to record. MISS GRACE, PLEASE PUT IN THE TAPE AND TAKE MY MONEY! It’s called ‘Shenanigans’ (one of my all-time favourite words!) and is a wining up, wuk it up reggae song. YES. ALL DAY. YES.
When I am 67, imma be telling my grand kids about this one night in Brooklyn when the sky was clear and the speakers were loud in my chest and I knew I was where I was supposed to be. I’m pretty sure Grace will still be alive and popping up to do one off-shows where she rides in on a unicorn.
After it was all over, we just stood there talking to other people who were dazed like, “You all just saw that too, right? M’kay because I did have a weed cookie earlier so I’m wondering if I just dreamed up the nana on stage KILLING IT.”
We’d met some folks earlier so jumped in their car (Kids, don’t talk to strangers unless they have a car and you have on heels). Cut to a quick wardrobe change, and us crawling home at 5am after visiting 3 (or was it 4?) spots. Good night. Nope… make that GREAT INCREDIBLE NIGHT.
(Did you miss Part I? Read it here... then click here for Part III)