Afropunk is a force of nature. Part festival, part movement, it’s a place where black people of all shades, gender identities, and socioeconomic backgrounds converge in their version of Sunday best. Each year, a diverse lineup of musical guests plays on three stages across Commodore Barry park, and there’s ample room to dance, mingle, and find people who share similar interests. This was my first time attending Afropunk and it was the experience of a lifetime. Before I danced the night away, I met some girls who told me about learning to play the guitar, applying to college, and their outfit choices.
Andina and I met up at Afropunk to celebrate her moving into college. She wore a cute romper from Social Apparel, and we had fun bouncing festival commentary back and forth. While we were chatting, Andina told me her advice: “Be you. I know that’s probably the corniest thing I’ll ever say in my life but it’s good to just find what you’re good at and find you own little niche. Just be you and be the dopest person you can be!”
Tyra has attended the festival before, but felt that this year Afropunk was extra special. “This was my third time attending Afropunk and I must say that this was probably my favorite year. In light of everything currently going on in society, this was definitely needed for our culture. The energy was so vibrant and there were people of all backgrounds out enjoying life and amazing music. The girl power was SO real! So many of my favorite women musicians performed: Kelis, SZA, Kelela! DJ Eden Hagos also held it down for Soulection. Everyone was awesome!”
Morgan (left), is a writer from California who is based in Dallas. When she’s not spending time with her grandma, she works at Austere magazine. She wore her “festival boots,” which are perfect for moshing, with a cute dress from TJ Maxx. Her friend, Adrienne (right) is new to Brooklyn by way of Dallas. Adrienne runs a fashion line for young girls called Iimouto, inspired by the idea of hand-me-downs, “taking what you’re given and making your own style.” She also does surrealist video work and she talked about the music that inspires her: “Man, everything Iman Omari produces really influences me. Check him out if you don’t know his work.”
We also met Summer, a super chill girl from Queens who will attend college as a freshman this fall to major in Computer Science. I asked her to share some wisdom with Rookie readers about pursuing your future. “Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and just try new things. The most spontaneous things usually come together in a really nice way. And never be on the sidelines.”
Tyra and I spotted this trio immediately: I don’t know if it was the color they were wearing, but they were radiant! Chelsea Bravo (center) is a fashion designer based in London. Her outfit is one of her own designs, and was inspired by Cubism. While she was in NY on a visit, she got up with her girls Mekdes (left) and Rahhel (right). Rahhel said the act she most wanted to see was “Lauryn Hill. I haven’t seen her perform live before so this is a really good opportunity.” I loved how these friends were all wearing some variation on burnt orange. I asked them about their coordination and Mekdes said, “I like orange, it looks good on black skin.”
Ravin is starting her freshman year at a performing arts high school this month. We spoke for a while before she told me that her best friends had performed at Afropunk the year before—her best friends being none other than black metal band Unlocking the Truth. Ravin’s social studies teacher by day, guitar phenom by night inspired her to take up the guitar, and she’s also started writing her own songs. “Once I get into it, I don’t stop for long time.” Her tips for girls wanting to learn an instrument: “Get someone to push you and motivate you, push you to the limit where you want to show them that, ‘I do got this! Like, thank you for believing in me.’” Although she currently performs exclusively in her bedroom, when she shares her passion with the world, I have a feeling it’ll be amazing.
Tyra spotted Brandi in the crowd, and I chased her down! Her self-proclaimed “dookie braids” were inspired by the ethereal and extraordinary FKA twigs. Brandi is from Charlotte, North Carolina and attends Hofstra University in Long Island, which she loves. She minors in Fine Art and majors in Biomedical Engineering. I wasn’t sure I’d heard her correctly when she mentioned her major, but I had! Oh, and the boots she’s wearing—which she designed herself—definitely put her Fine Arts background to work. Brandi is amazing, y’all!
Seeing Kelis live was so surreal to me, since she’s definitely someone I look up to. During a break in her set, DJ Beverly Bond explained that Kelis had pioneered the colorful curly hair and wild child attitude embodied by so many black girls today. Kelis is way underrated and was a huge source of empowerment for me before I could even articulate what it meant to feel empowered. Something about the music video for “Caught Out There” captured me, and I sang my heart out as Kelis performed a version of the song mixed into “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”
I was inspired to see so many black girls and women from creative fields networking and sharing their work. Black women have always made strides in these industries—breaking rules and inventing new ones along the way. However, many don’t get their due and so we don’t hear about their contributions. Seeing women who write, draw, make films, and more, welcome each other with open arms was super important to me.
Afropunk surpassed my expectations—and best believe I had plenty! In that space, basking in the sun, it really does feel like you’re free to be whoever you want to be. The DIY encouragement I received from people I didn’t even know that well is nothing short of uplifting: When I told one attendee that I wanted to pursue beat making, they replied immediately “You should do that!” The weekend also holds a special place in my heart because I spent it with good friends before we part ways and head for college. Something about dancing with my girls to music by Soulection, Young Paris, and Kaytranada, felt like an out of body experience. For me, this was a weekend of beautiful moments shared with beautiful people on the cusp of moving on to the next chapter of our lives—a celebration of and a goodbye to the people we once were. It was a great weekend, and I’ll probably never shut up about it. ♦