15 Years After Its Birth, AfroPunk Brooklyn Remains a Source of Eternal Inspiration

JunglePussy performing at AfroPunk 2019
Photo: Makeda Sandford

AfroPunk Festival descended onto Commodore Barry Park for yet another year, and damn was it fun—beautiful, and in case you were worried, yes, it’s still black as hell.

Year after year, white media and the rest of the world get a gift. That gift is inspiration and forecasted trends in everything from fabrics, hairstyles, upcoming music, fresh dances, body art—all by happy black people of all ages minding their business at this iconic Brooklyn-born festival.

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This year was no different. The festival lineup was full of energy, and happily women-heavy, featuring acts like Tierra Whack, NAO, Kamasi Washington, Leon Bridges, JunglePussy, and the ever-amazing Jill Scott.

Surprise artists included Alicia Keys, who beautifully serenaded Tierra Whack for her birthday, Rapsody stepping in during Leikeli47’s set, and Alabama Shakes powerhouse Brittany Howard, who locked in for the special guest slot. Rock-wise, this year was at its best, featuring Death Grips, HO9909, and several other high energy groups (including all five of the Battle of the Bands finalists) that brought the house down.

Photo: Makeda Sandford

Closing the show out was a stunning showcase by London dream-girl FKA Twigs, which included probably the most gorgeous pole-dancing performance to ever happen.

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This was a lineup that signaled true innovation—and the fact that black people can do this rock shit as effortlessly and perfect as literally any other genre. Period. No more questions needed. [Editor’s note: And no surprise, since we invented it.] From a stunning, never-before-heard cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” by Jill Scott, to the mosh pits at shows like Rico Nasty, IAmDDB and Death Grips, we do this.

Feeling simultaneously like a reunion and a rock festival, the energy within the gates this year felt more familiar, more authentic, and definitely a bit more laid back. Folks both wanted to stay comfortable and look good doing it and I was right there with them...that is, until Rico Nasty snatched us all up with her beat-pounding mosh pit while the sun was still out. It was only 3 p.m., sis! I am still catching my breath!

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Individual style and costume-like, larger-than-life fits coexisted effortlessly as the true soul of the festival rang clear in the adornments of the attendees, who sported stunning tattoos and facial coverings, jewelry and runway-quality makeup, hair and accessories. Claps, snaps, and “yes, girl”s were heard on a consistent basis.

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Again, it was beautiful. And may all the attendees say to the rest of the world, “You’re welcome.”

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