AfroPunk festival. Photo by B.C. Lorio

By Samaira Bunbury, age 11

Every summer, around 70,000 people of various ethnicities, shades, abilities and genders celebrate the annual Afropunk Festival. With a program full of dance, music, film and fashion, it’s an all-arts festival that embraces African-centric culture. Across various cities and countries, from Brooklyn to Atlanta, Paris to London and Johannesburg, South Africa, concertgoers say the Afropunk Music Festival feels like family and is a chance to be your true self.

“Afropunk means inclusivity, freedom to be who you are, and acceptance [of] who you are,” Samuel Opawumi, a 27-year-old student from Drexel University, told Gothamist. “It means celebrating your roots, and Afropunk shows that the Black Diaspora is not a monolith.”

Founded in 2005, Afropunk has taken the world by storm, as it inspires many people of color, young and old, to embrace their culture. It’s a movement that proclaims no hate toward anyone and promotes inclusivity.

Punk rock is a genre of music that emerged in the mid-1970s. It was a popular form of music, but it tended to be overwhelmingly white. James Spooner, a Black person who grew up in the punk scene in the late 1990s, early 2000s, acknowledged rock ‘n’ roll’s Black roots and knew that there must be people like him who enjoyed this music, so he decided to travel around the country to connect a community of punks of color and document it.

“In 2001, when I set out to make the documentary, there was a need for it,” Spooner told the Guardian. “This conversation wasn’t happening on a broad enough scale. There were always black kids and brown kids peppered throughout the scene, but I literally had to drive across the country just to meet, like, 80 [of them].”

He named the documentary Afro-Punk and, following its success, created the Afropunk Festival to build the community further.

People have found freedom to express themselves and make their mark in this new cultural space, either by showing off their beautiful natural curls or embracing their long silky hair. What matters is how we show others who we are.

“Ever since I was a little girl I knew I wanted to be involved in pushing culture forward, and music,” co-CEO of Afropunk, Jocelyn Cooper, told InStyle magazine. “When you put those two things together there comes a sense of freedom that we as Black people in this country in particular have not historically been able to have.”

Glossary

Monolith – When something is monolithic, it’s big and made of one thing. A large piece of stone jutting from the earth is a monolith.

AfroPunk illustration by Samaira Bunbury